Why invoke powers when following advice, Tee Keat asks Kong
KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has labelled as “complete nonsense” for Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha to say that he invoked ministerial powers under the Port Authority Act merely to follow the advice of the Port Klang Authority (PKA) in issuing payments to Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB).
Kong, who succeeded Ong as transport minister, told The Malaysian Insider yesterday it was only “partly true” he invoked the Act as “the figure to be paid is on the advice from the PKA.”
The MCA secretary-general said the authority “actually advises us on what is the amount outstanding” for repayment each year to the turnkey developer in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal which may cost taxpayers RM12.5 billion from an initial RM1.1 billion.
But Ong (picture) questioned today the need for Kong to use his powers if the regulator for Malaysia’s largest port was already willing to pay KDSB despite an ongoing legal dispute over RM1.6 billion worth of work.
“This is complete nonsense, talking about PKA advice and whatnot. During my tenure, (Datuk Lee) Hwa Beng had already said after consulting their lawyers, PKA did not want to pay,” he said, referring to the then PKA chairman.
Lee, who was PKA chief from March 2008 to March 2011, had said last week the board decided to withhold scheduled payments for 2010 but was then told by Kong to reverse the decision.
“How can the PKA board decide in a meeting not to pay but still advice the minister to pay? This is under Kong’s powers so just take responsibility,” Ong said today.
Lee, a former Subang Jaya assemblyman, had also said he only agreed to do so after receiving written instructions from Kong.
Ong, who was dropped from Cabinet after being ousted as MCA president in 2010, also said today that Kong was trying to dodge the core question of “whether he will pay this June’s tranche of RM733 million.”
The Pandan MP pointed out that Kong had himself confirmed that an outstanding amount of RM1.6 billion, which is the amount PKA is suing the company for, was yet to be paid to KDSB.
Ong had earlier pointed out earlier this month that “any move to pay according to the schedule appended to the contractor under dispute is tantamount to jumping the gun.”
“Common sense will tell you... to immediately stop payment until the dispute is settled. The fact that you paid him after you discover the alleged fraud shows that you indeed grant consent to it,” he had said.
The DAP also accused Kong today of emulating his predecessors Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik and Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy who are currently on trial for lying to Cabinet over the PKFZ scandal.
Publicity chief Tony Pua told reporters the MCA secretary-general must gain Cabinet approval before the Treasury released “billions of ringgit” over the past two years to pay KDSB bondholders.
But the turnkey developer, which also sold a 1,000-acre plot for the project at an allegedly inflated price of RM25 per square foot, had already agreed to cover any shortfall in payments by the government due to uncompleted works, according to letters of undertaking Pua distributed to reporters.
The PKFZ project, initially tagged at RM1.1 billion after it was mooted by then Transport Minister Dr Ling in 1997, more than quadrupled to RM4.6 billion by 2007.
A position review by top accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed in 2009 that the total cost including interest from debt repayments could reach RM12.5 billion.
Since December 2009, six individuals have been charged in court including ex-MCA president Dr Ling and his successor as transport minister, former MCA deputy chief Chan.