Road Maintenance Trust Fund audited annually, Soon Koh assures Chong

Wong is seen delivering his winding-up speech at the DUN today (May 8, 2019) in this photo of the DUN in-house broadcast feed.

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, May 8: Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh explains that having sufficient balance in the State Road Maintenance Trust Fund does not mean it is not being utilised.

He said sufficient balance was critical to enable the implementing agencies to better plan and implement road maintenance programmes.

“Hence, having sufficient balance in the account does not mean that it is not utilised and maintenance works on the ground are not implemented.

“To make a statement that excess balance in the account associated to work not done on the ground is rather naive of Yang Berhormat for Kota Sentosa (Chong Chieng Jen),” said Wong during his winding-up speech at the state legislature (DUN) today.

He said for the past four years (2015 to 2018), the Sarawak government received a total of RM3.318 billion in grants from the federal government for road maintenance.

“From the same period, a total sum of RM4.152 billion was allocated to all the implementing agencies, which are obviously more by RM834 million than what the federal government had allocated to Sarawak.

“Out of the amount allocated to the implementing agencies, RM3.818 billion or 92 per cent was spent. Again, this actual expenditure exceeded the total amount that we received from the federal government.

“So, to say that the money given was not spent but kept in the account is rather speculative and totally baseless.

“Even the Auditor General (AG), in his annual report, has acknowledged the satisfactory performance of the state road maintenance by Sarawak government,” said Wong.

He stressed that the State Road Maintenance Trust Fund is audited annually by the AG.

“It is also reported in the annual Auditor General’s Report, which is tabled every year to Parliament and the Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN).

“Thus, rest assured that the question of transparency and integrity of the account is indisputable,” he assured.

Wong also highlighted that the disbursement of grant for road maintenance by the federal government to Sarawak is made on a monthly basis.

“From the perspective of project management, this is not at all effective in meeting the needs of project planning and project implementation purposes.

“In this regard, Ahli Yang Berhormat for Kota Sentosa should discuss with his counterpart in the federal government, particularly the Minister of Finance, to disburse the grant in one lump sum at the beginning of the year to facilitate the state to plan and implement its road maintenance programmes effectively and efficiently,” said Wong.

Wong was responding to allegations made by Chong (DAP-Kota Sentosa) on May 2, where he claimed a huge balance in the State Road Maintenance Trust Fund was unused by Sarawak government while the people were crying out for more road upgrading.

Chong alleged that instead of using up federal allocations for road repairs or maintenance, the state government kept them in the bank as cash.

He further claimed that from 2005 to 2017, a total of RM625 million of funds allocated for road upgrading were not spent but kept in the bank as cash, earning zero interest.

Chong pointed out that when residents of housing estates appealed to the local councils, state government or state Public Works Department to repair roads that were sinking or had potholes, the most common excuse given by the authorities was “no allocation”.

Meanwhile, Wong reported to the august House that Sarawak’s financial account for the year ended Dec 31, 2018, had again been given a clean bill of health.

“The state’s commendable investment credit ratings have also been re-affirmed at A3 and A- by International rating agencies Moody’s as well as Standard and Poor’s respectively,” he shared. — DayakDaily