Friday, April 25, 2008
One year has passed
It has been a year since Dungun-born Manchester United fan Datuk Zolkples Embong (picture) was appointed to the hotseat as the chief of the National Sports Council.
But I wonder whether he was in any mood to celebrate upon reading Terence Fernandez's very down to earth piece in the Sun today.
Someone must answer for funds fiasco
POOR Datuk Zolkples Embong! After being a loyal servant of his ex-boss, the National Sports Council (NSC) director-general now finds himself discarded and left to fend for himself over the extravagance of the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation Malaysia (WSFFM).
Former youth and sports minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has distanced herself from the million-ringgit fiasco that is WSFFM’s National Women’s Games by saying that she does not get involved with the foundation’s management and funding.
The present tourism minister was reported as saying on Wednesday that as the mere patron of the foundation, she “just cut ribbons”.
“I don’t get involved with management and I don’t have a say in funding,” she was reported as saying in a local daily.
So, if she had no say in the funding, then who did?
The accounts of the WSFFM clearly show that it received a grant of RM9.72 million from the NSC and another RM1.5 million from the ministry – good money, people’s money that was squandered on staging the games where aerial dancers were brought in from Australia to the tune of RM800,000 for the opening ceremony.
So, if Azalina had no say in handing out taxpayers’ money to the foundation, who decided on who got what and how much; and who signed the cheques?
The only other person who could have approved the RM9.72 million grant would have been Zolkples .
Now that his ex-boss has sent him into the lion’s den with her declaration, Zolkples will have to account for the money that the NSC generously gave away to an outfit whose role and benefits are suspect, while the NSC’s own sports development fund is almost dry.
Zolkples must answer why almost RM10 million was handed to the WSFFM on a silver platter, while the NSC cuts its allocation for other sports associations.
However, Azalina still has to account for the RM1.5 million which was doled out by her own office, unless of course in the true spirit of sports and fitness, she would rather tai-chi the responsibility to the ministry’s secretary-general, Datuk Mohd Yasin Mohd Salleh, who was already made to answer for the ministry’s exorbitant expenditures as indicated in the Auditor-General’s Report.
However, I can foresee the defences of these two officials – “saya yang menurut perintah”!
Which is why, instead of getting her minions to attack my colleague Citizen Nades on the web, it would be better for Azalina to not just cut ribbons but also the bull over how she managed taxpayers’ money that had been entrusted to her the last four years.
She must come clean with the money she had spent – including the need to relocate and refurbish her new office in Putrajaya while her successor at the Youth and Sports Ministry Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob has embarked on an austerity drive.
This former Public Accounts Committee member probably had no choice as he inherited a ministry with dwindling coffers.
At a time when some of our former Olympians and national athletes cannot even afford medical treatment, the ministry and its affiliates, including the NSC, must resolve to stop this sinful waste of funds and channel the money for what it is meant for – sports development and the welfare of our athletes, both past and present.
Yes, Zolkples and Yasin must account for the privileged treatment of the WSFFM, which has come within the radar of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). But Azalina should not be allowed to wash her hands off this issue. She cannot feign ignorance. Being the then minister, the buck stopped with her.