Memoir Putera Lapis Mahang

Memoir Putera Lapis Mahang

Friday, November 2, 2012

SISTEM PEROLEHAN KERAJAAN: BHG 5

dari Bahagian 4

  AMALAN PEROLEHAN KERAJAAN  
  AN INTERVIEW  
 WITH AUDITOR-GENERAL OF MALAYSIA 

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YBhg Tan Sri Ambrin bin Buang
Auditor-General



Isu ketirisan dalam sistem perolehan Kerajaan bukanlah satu perkara baru.  Setiap tahun pelbagai kes dilaporkan oleh Auditor General Persekutuan yang melibatkan pelbagai kes salah guna kuasa dan perlanggaran prosedur yang melibatkan kerugian atau kehilangan Wang Kerajaan bernilai berjuta-juta ringgit.

Selain dari Jabatan Audit Negara, banyak lagi audit yang dilaksanakan oleh pihak Kerajaan (sama ada di peringkat Persekutuan, Negeri atau audit dalaman Kementerian atau Jabatan) bagi mempastikan pengurusan kewangan negara diurus dengan baik. Namun ia tetap berlaku.  Dimanakah silapnya?
  • Adakah peraturan yang sedia ada tidak mencukupi?
  • Adakah kita tidak mempunyai Ketua Jabatan yang cekap dan boleh dipercayai?
  • Adakah kita terlalu banyak peraturan yang sukar untuk dipatuhi sehingga penjawat awam terpaksa mencari jalan untuk menipu?
  • Adakah penjawat awam kita sudah kehilangan integriti?
  • Adakah latihan untuk penjawat awam kita hanya memebrikan penekanan kepada duniawi- kenaikan pangkat sahaja dan melupakan perkara ukhrawi dan etika?
  • Adakah penjawat awat tidak cukup makan kerana gaji terlalu kecil?
  • Adakah amalan rasuah atau pecah amanah ini sememangnya telah menjadi sebahagian dari budaya kerja?
Kali ini aku hanya menyalin semula teks wawancara jurnalis The Star dengan Ketua Audit Negara, Y.Bhg Tan Sri Ambrin bin Buang.


SHINING THE TORCH ON WASTAGE,
INEFFICIENCIES

by Aniza Damis and Tan Choe Choe 
Question: Do you have guidelines on how a project is supposed to be implemented or supervised?
Answer: When a government project is signed, there is a provision for the appointment of a project director. These are technical people, so normally it will be Public Works Department people, or the technical people in the ministry. It is the project manager's job to supervise the work of contractors, vendors and sub-contractors. The issue is how effective is your supervision?
If you certify that a project is okay when it's not, you're not doing your job, you're negligent, and you should be subjected to disciplinary action.
Question: There was the issue of repair work being done on Terengganu government quarters that don't exist.
Answer: It's a matter of whether you supervise on site or you supervise on paper only. When it's on paper, you don't counter-check what happens on the ground. So, if somebody says there are three houses that have to be maintained and paid for, you accept it, but actually the work is not done.
Question: The controlling officer is supposed to be the director-general or the secretary-general. But he has his own department or ministry work to do. He can't drive to Terengganu and count the quarters before he gives his approval. So, how is the counter-check supposed to be done?
Answer: You're right. Certainly, you can't expect the controlling officer to know what is happening in Terengganu, but there are Responsibility Centres. They have the function to monitor how money is being spent. Whether they do it properly is an open question.
Question: One department bought air-conditioners for RM10,800 each, whereas the market price is only RM2,000. The department claimed the remainder was for maintenance. How can maintenance be nearly RM9,000 each?
Answer: That is their explanation. But imagine if the audit did not discover this, it would mean that things would just proceed.
Question: But the explanation sounds dodgy.
Answer: In the extreme of cases, you cannot discount the possibility of collusion between the desk officers handling the procurement and the supplier.
Question: So, what happens when the explanation given is so obviously not logical?
Answer: The controlling officer has to study the case and decide whether his officer's reply is reasonable. If he finds that it's not, he has the power to institute investigations. Hopefully, a neutral investigation committee will be established. If you appoint the accused's friend, there is the possibility the thing will just be hushed up. If you want to do an investigation, do it professionally. Get somebody who is not at all involved in that division or department.
Question: So, you come up with the report, they come up with the reply, and it's up to the respective internal audit committees to pick it up and take action. But some people will say, "This case has already been exposed in the audit report, therefore 'kira settle' (it's considered settled)," and they do nothing about it. Does that mean your report forgives mismanagement? Once it comes out, everyone knows about it, there is public humiliation, so it's settled?
Answer: Well, we have now been asked to help the government do the necessary follow-up. So, we will get reports from the ministries on what action they have taken. If you're conducting investigations, what is the outcome? What is the penalty you want to implement?
If, in our opinion, the penalty is not sufficient, there's nothing to stop me from taking it farther. I can write to the chief secretary to the government or to the Treasury secretary-general that in our opinion, this (action) is not sufficient. They have the power to take whatever disciplinary action they want. If the Treasury wants to conduct its own investigation, it has the power to do so because it is also the custodian of the public's money.
Our job doesn't stop at just tabling the report.
We are supposed to inform the government (on) what actions the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the police and the Public Service Department are taking. We are in that mode now, to collect information and find out the status of MACC investigations, because normally, they will do the follow-up (after our report comes out). We don't even have to ask them to investigate. They can do it on their own. Our report is accessible to everybody. I can assure you, where it merits punishment, there will be punishment.
Question: Are ministries audited in rotation?
Answer: It depends. If you talk about the accountability index at the federal level, all ministries are audited every year. That is for financial management. But when it comes to the performance audit, for the big ministries, we will cover at least one topic (project/programme). So, for instance, for the Education Ministry, there are two to three studies that we do. The same goes for the Home and Finance Ministries, the police, Customs and Inland Revenue Board. For the big ministries, there will be a performance audit every year, but not the small ministries.
Question: Is it possible that there will be some activity/project which your light will never shine on?
Answer: Yes. Each year, there are hundreds of thousands of government projects and activities. We only do a fraction of this because we have constraints. It is also an international practice to do sampling.
Question: How do you do your sampling?
Answer: It's random. We have a set of criteria, and we look at what are the topics of public interest. My policy is, every big project is compulsory. And we will come in without waiting for it to be completed. That's what we did for the double-tracking, and are doing with the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). In the past, we would wait until the project was finished before making our observation; but by that time, it was rendered meaningless. However, in the past three to four years of my tenure, we went in while the project was ongoing. Our idea was to help them, so that if there were certain procedures that they had not followed, we ask them to please correct it immediately.
Question: And that's why you looked at the national feedlot project last year?
Answer: Yes, because the project was under construction. If I were to wait for the project to be completed, we don't know when that would be. And it's a big project because it involves a loan of RM250 million, not to mention all the assistance they have got in terms of grant and whatnot, so we're looking at the project.
Sometimes, we do another audit after three years or so to see how things go. We really want to see whether there have been improvements. If not, we mention in the report that this has been brought up (before). Because you know, on the ground, people come and people go. Sometimes, they forget what was written three to four years ago, or they didn't read the report. But, on our part, we have the memory, you see. So, if we think that this is very important, we will do another audit.
Question: Is there any department, project or ministry that you're not allowed to touch, officially or unofficially?
Answer: I think we've touched all ministries. Our powers are all provided for in the Audit Act 1957.
Question: Have you ever been in error?
Answer: We take pains to ensure accuracy. We have mechanisms and there's nothing to prevent the checking and double-checking of facts. All I can say is that we reserve the right to make an opinion based on the facts collected by us. You may not agree with us; inasmuch as we respect whatever you want to say about our report, I think you also have to respect our opinion.
If people want to spin and make further comments, I cannot stop them. I do not wish to really comment. I would just say, "Your facts are not correct".
Also, you must remember, you're talking about an audit that was done early last year. After a while, things change. So, these people will say, "No, we have done this, we have done that".
Question: So, they have more than a year to fix it?
Answer: Yes. And that is good. Because our hope is that, wherever there are weaknesses, please correct them. And please use them as lessons. Otherwise, things keep on repeating.
Question: There is a proposal for three audits a year. Would you prefer that?
Answer: If something against the law happened last year, why would you want to wait one whole year before someone could come in (to investigate or fix it)? We are all for transparency. We are all for facts.
Question: It wouldn't be harder?
Answer: No, because our auditing process is continuous.
Question: Speaking about transparency and perception, when you sign the report it means that...
Answer: I stand by it.
Question: You signed it in July but it came out in September. Between the time it was published and tabled in Parliament, was there any chance of tampering? Can someone direct you to take something out?
Answer: Who would want to do that? The auditees themselves know much earlier what are the issues. If you look at some parts of the report, when we include the auditee's response, they have said what action they have taken. And most of this action is taken after the audit revelation. We have already revealed the thing, they respond. So, we put it in the report.
Question: But the Auditor-General's Report is a "bad news" story. When you read chapter by chapter, the story is acceptable. But taken as a whole, someone could say, "Oh, it's too much of a nightmare. Can you take out some of the scary parts?"
Answer: Well, some of our auditees say they have already explained. So, to them, why should the Audit Department still want to put it into the published version? But can you imagine the situation where we drop everything, then our report wouldn't be over two feet high.
If we feel it is a pertinent issue, about value for money, we will still include it in the final published copy. Because the report is supposed to serve as a lesson for everyone. If you delete that part, then there's no lesson to learn! It is normal that people overlook certain things, that they are not aware of certain things. Maybe there are too many regulations for them to follow or it is too onerous for them to follow.
Question: So, when you sign off in July, that means that the report is final? No more changes?
Answer: Yes.
Question: We've been reading your reports for as long as you've been the auditor-general, and it is really annoying to read the same sort of mistakes.
Answer: It depends on what you're talking about. You're talking about improvement, right? Last time, one of the problems is people are late in submitting their accounts for auditing, and then, there are many that don't get a clean certificate. Now, the situation has improved. They are submitting their accounts on time, and more and more of them are getting a clean certificate.
But, if you talk about complying with the guidelines, isn't that everybody's job to comply? Everybody should get four stars. But most of them only get three stars because in certain areas, they are still lacking. We want them to focus on following the guidelines. If you don't do anything about it, then you will never get four stars.
Invariably, there are bound to be weaknesses in planning, in implementation, this is the gist of our reports. It's how serious are the weaknesses. Some are just certain procedures being overlooked. Some involve monetary implications and additional cost to the government.
So, it's very difficult for me to comment on whether there has been any improvement. But, from the government side, they have taken steps to address this. For example, to get value for money, the government has introduced value management -- third-party evaluation. The government has been able to secure savings from that. So, this response from the government is a very responsible move.
Question: When you look at the overall report, is the wastage still more than the savings?
Answer: I don't know, because we simply don't quantify each and every transaction. How do you define loss? Let's take the double-tracking project. You can see that the project is shaping up. So, even though there is an increase in cost, do you consider that as a loss?
When people supply equipment, it is not being used because the building is not ready yet. But when the building is ready, it will be used. Do you consider that as a loss?
Question: In the seven years that you have been doing this, do you think the accountability and integrity message is getting through?
Answer: Yes, I could sense that when I check with my officers. They say they are happy, because now they get fair attention, unlike those days where you can write anything and nothing really happens. With regards to the consciousness of audit, I would say that the audit report is a permanent agenda to be discussed at a very high level and of course, at the cabinet. So, that, to me, is a reflection of the seriousness of the government. I'm sure that the state government, whether it is Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional, does, too.
Question: Does this trickle down to the officers?
Answer: It depends on their boss. Everybody knows what is mentioned by the auditor-general, so, have you sufficiently addressed those issues? If you say that your system is no longer working, do you take the trouble to change it? The onus is on them.
Question: You say there is improvement in terms of consciousness and accountability. Is it because of the media attention?
Answer: Yes, definitely. We are now in a network-environment; people are networking. So, you'd better explain yourself well. My advice to my fellow civil servants is: always when you work, think that you could be audited. That's why we have spot audits.
Question: Are the criticisms this year more ferocious compared with previous years?
Answer: No. (If) people want to spin, and you know very well that this is the political season, it is expected. But when you mention A-G, make sure your facts are correct.
Question: Your report last year on the NFC (National Feedlot Corporation) spring-boarded a bigger investigation. When you were doing this report, were you hoping that there wouldn't be another scandal? Do you let how your findings are reported affect how you do your work?
Answer: No. I am only concerned that I have to stand by my report. I always remind my officers, "Your job is not completed just because you have submitted; there will be follow-ups after that. If you are not lucky, you may be hauled up as a witness. So, you'd better be sure of your facts. Because when you go to court, you will be grilled".
Question: If an auditor doesn't shine his torch in the corner when he should, he can also be charged?
Answer: Of course.
Question: So, you never take into consideration that we're going into the 13th general election?
Answer: This thing is planned. For next year's report, from the beginning of this year, we have already decided. I have seen the list of projects. How are we to know when the election is going to be?
Question: Who audits the auditors? They could be bribed.
Answer: Yes, but I don't think it will happen. We are a department. We are subject to the accountant-general, the government financial system -- they also make an audit report on us. They tell us what mistakes we make. Also, being under the Prime Minister's Department, we are subject to internal audits from the department.
I have adopted the policy of jabatan contoh (exemplary department). You tell people to do this, do that, so, you must do what you tell people to do. Otherwise, you have no credibility.
Are we done? I have another meeting on disciplinary action.
Question: Disciplinary action for whom?
Answer: My staff. Does that surprise you? We are all humans, you know.

The New Sunday Times, October 28, 2012
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Biodata Tan Sri Ambrin bin Buang:

Ambrin bin Buang dilahirkan pada 24 Mac 1949 di Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur. Beliau mendapat mendapat Ijazah Sarjana Muda Ekonomi dari Universiti Malaya pada tahun 1971 dan kemudiannya mendapat ijazah  Sarjana Perniagaan Antarabangsa, Universiti South Carolina, Amerika Syarikat pada tahun 1981.

Beliau memulakan kerjaya sebagai pegawai Perkhidmatan Awam (PTD) pada tahun 1971 sehingga 1979 di Kementerian Perdagangan dan Perindustrian (MITI) sebagai Penolong Setiausaha, Bahagian Pentadbiran dan Kewangan; Penolong Pengarah, Bahagian Perdagangan Antarabangsa, Setiausaha Sulit Kepada Menteri; dan Timbalan Pengarah, Bahagian Perindustrian.


Sepulangnya dari program Sarjana beliau kembali ke MITI untuk menjawat jawatan  Timbalan Pengarah Bahagian Perusahaan Kecil (1981-1982),  Pengarah Pemasaran, Lembaga Perindustrian Kayu Malaysia (LPKM) (1982-1987); seterusnya bertukar ke INTAN sebagai Timbalan Ketua Pengarah (1987-1991), kemudian sebagai Ketua Pusat Pentadbiran Ekonomi Dan Dasar Awam

Timbalan Pengarah (Pengurusan).

Pada tahun 1992-1995 beliau ditugaskan di Kedutaan Besar Malaysia Di Tokyo sebagai Menteri Kedutaan; 1995-1999  dipinjamkan sebagai Pengurus Besar Kanan di  KL International Airport Berhad; 1999-2001 dilantik sebagai Setia Usaha Kerajaan Negeri Selangor; dan dari Okt 2001 - Feb 2006 dilantik menjadi Ketua Setiausaha Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia.

Beliau telah dilantik menjadi Ketua Audit Negara mulai Feb 2006 sehingga sekarang.  Beliau juga dilantik menjadi salah seorang dari Ahli Dewan DiRaja Selangor.

Antara pingat dan darjah kebesaran yang diterima ialah Kesatria Mangku Negara (K.M.N.)- 1990; 

Darjah Paduka Mahkota Selangor (D.P.M.S) - 2000; Panglima Setia Mahkota (P.S.M) dan Dato’ Setia Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (S.S.I.S) - 2005.

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