R. Nadeswaran and Terence Fernandezaa of theSun should be commended for exposing the 'excess baggage' in the Ministry of Tourism. The report 'Over the Limit...' (13 Oct 2008) is reproduced below:
PETALING JAYA: The tourism minister’s office has excess baggage. It’s over-staffed and the appointment of some 20 staff contravenes the Public Services Department (PSD)’s regulations limiting the appointments to only eight. It is also in defiance of a Treasury circular on cost-cutting and austerity.
The minister’s office has three special officers, five political officers, one research officer, six Information technology (IT) officers and five support staff
The PSD allows a minister to have only one special officer, one senior private secretary or administrative and diplomatic officer, one private secretary or assistant administrative officer, one press secretary or information officer, three administrative assistants one general office assistant
These details are contained in documents sighted by theSun which also highlight other discrepancies, such as:
· the appointments were backdated to circumvent circulars from the PSD and the Treasury;
· applicants being paid much more than they asked for;
· multiple payment of salaries from different companies; and
· absence of proper selection process as the posts were not advertised.
The correspondence between the ministry’s officers and minister’s private secretaries to heads of subsidiary companies of the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board expose a series of breaches of government rules and regulations.
In a letter dated April 23,the ministry’s deputy secretary-general Datuk Ab Ghaffar A. Tambi wrote to the then director-general of Tourism Malaysia Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, directing him to make arrangements to pay the salaries of 20 staff who on paper are attached to the minister’s office – ranging from special officers to administrative assistants. But subsequent letters are telling indeed with the appointments being back-dated.
As only the PSD can approve new appointments, the guidelines were circumvented by getting Tourism Malaysia subsidiary Pempena Sdn Bhd and its affiliates Malaysian Travel Business Sdn Bhd and SD Corp Communications Sdn Bhd to pay their salaries.
PSD Director-General Tan Sri Ismail Adam had on April 30 issued a circular emphasizing the restriction of appointments in the offices of ministers and deputy ministers. Each designation is spelt out with a proper salary structure. Ministers can have eight and their deputies, four. The circular was effective March 19 – a week after the new members of Cabinet took office.
Subsequently, on May 2, the Treasury issued a circular freezing new appointments as part of the government’s cost-cutting measures. But documents show that some appointments in the minister’s office were made after that date and backdated to April 1.
· On June 11, the minister's senior private secretary Mohd Daud Mohd Arif requested the chairman of Malaysian Travel Business Datuk Abdullah Ahmad to employ three persons as ‘administrative assistants’ with salaries ranging from RM2,100 to RM3,000. Abdullah was asked to back-date their appointments to April 1.
· On May 12, the minister’s private secretary, Suziyana Natasya Abdullah, wrote to Pempena human resource officer Mariam Amy, attaching a list of 16 names and 17 Pempena employment application forms for ‘immediate action’.
The appointments of several of these officers do not reflect details in their application forms. For example, David Chiam Joy Woon ‘applied’ for a job as pegawai khas (special officer) and put his expected salary as RM6,000. However, in documents related to payment of his salary, he is being paid RM10,000 – RM5,000 as executive director of SD Corp and another RM5,000 as a board member Malaysia My Destination (MYD) Sdn Bhd. He is also a board member of other affiliates and subsidaries, including Malaysian Travel Business and Awana London, Awana Beijing.
Similarly, former Malay Mail sports reporter Tony Mariadass applied for a job as a ‘research officer’ with an expected salary of RM8,000. He is listed so in the list of officers in the minister’s office, but has since been ‘appointed’ general manager of Shopping Malaysia Secretariat (SSM) at a salary of RM10,700. Co-incidentally, both he and Chiam had previously worked for the same minister in the Youth and Sports Ministry.
Mohd Radzi Ramli applied for the post of pegawai politik (political secretary) with an expected salary of RM4,405 but also holds the post of senior executive (government liaison) at SSM, with a pay of RM3,000.
For the record, it now costs at least RM23,000 a month in salaries to four people, to run the SSM, not taking into account EPF payments; medical bills and other perks that come with the jobs.
Other appointments on the list of 16 whose names do not appear in the forms include Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, who is executive director of Pempena. She is paid RM10,000 and is provided with a car and driver.