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Monday, September 1, 2008

NS deals led to RM110m loss

As a parent, I am not a fan of the Malaysian National Service program (or Program Latihan Khidmat Negara (PLKN)) .

There are far too many horror stories around.

Rape, lost in jungle, food poisoning, outbreak of unknown fever, poor security, lack of hygeine, atrocious living conditions, and worse unnecessary deaths and fatalities. (refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_National_Service)

Which parent in their right mind would want to subject their precious child/ren to these completely unnecessary risks?

And the irony - PM Abdullah and UMNO does not want to open up UiTM to non-bumis which would result in 12 times longer interactions between the various races, but want to expand the NS program which only runs for 3 months but at great cost to taxpayers because of "national unity"! How ironic! Can one even take PM Abdullah and UMNO Rhetorics seriously?

On the other hand, you have a great deal of public and taxpayers funds being wasted unnecessarily. A recent example is this article printed in The Star on Merdeka day ironically titled the above. The link is here - http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/12005/1/.

(The Star) - National Service shirkers and a very “rigid” contract have caused the Government losses of up to RM110.1mil from 2004 to last year, the 2007 Auditor-General’s report said.

Over the four years, the audit found that 63,417 people failed to attend the programme for various reasons, which led to the Government having to fork out the money to camp operators due to the way the contract was set out.

The contract spelt out that the Government would pay rent for the use of equipment and facilities for between 690 and 890 trainees for 2004 and between 300 and 400 trainees for 2005 and beyond.

The fee, per trainee, worked out to RM30 in the peninsula and RM41 in Sabah and Sarawak for 2004. In 2005, it cost RM25 in peninsula and RM34.30 in Sabah and Sarawak.

This meant that the Government had to pay for the stated number of trainees in the contract even if the number of trainees turning up was less or more than the figure stipulated in the agreement.

“Every year, between 16% and 23% of those called up to join the programme did not turn up.

The ministry must review the contract conditions regarding how many trainees are allocated to each camp,” the report said.

It added that the ministry should also have a backup name list as there had to be a stop to the losses due to people not turning up for training.

“The NS Training Department also has to double-check its name list with the relevant authorities before putting out the roll call,” it said.

Among the reasons those called up did not attend were: a change in address, still studying, sole bread-winners, disabled, did not receive notices, died, overseas, in the army, health problems or have attended NS before.

In its reply, the ministry said it was in the midst of reviewing the contracts, adding that the department would be increasing the number of trainees next year to 140,000 to make up for any shortfall.

The audit also found that RM57mil in arrears had yet to be collected from camp operators for advances they had taken to construct the camps.

The audit also checked on certain camps from various angles such as the suitability of its location, cleanliness, food quality and quality of equipment supplied.

It found that the Beringin Beach camp in Langkawi was unsuitable because high tides often flooded dormitories and left a classroom unusable.

For the Wawasan camp in Sabah, camp operators told the audit team that it was difficult to obtain fresh fish to cook for the trainees but the audit team found it otherwise at the Kota Kinabalu market.

The audit also found that T-shirts, track pants, baseball caps and sports shoes supplied under contracts worth RM41.12mil were of low quality.

Just focusing on the article above:

1. The root cause for the $ loss is attributed to actual numbers turn out smaller than planned.

2. Most of the causes given are no-brainers and expected when dealing with large number of people and time-lag from first screening to attendance.

3. However, some of the causes are mind-boggling - e.g. "attended NS before"! How on earth can someone be asked to attend NS twice? This reflects extremely poorly on the NS organizers!

It begs the question - How can the NS administrators not know the kid has already gone through NS before? Is the NS record keeping system so poor? Is there simply no checks performed to make sure noone is invited twice or cross-referenced against the attended database? Poor database integrity? Poor programmers?

4. If they can't do 3. right, how on earth are they going to manage the proposed DNA Database that I discussed earlier when the latter has far greater implication on potentially all 27 million Malaysians? http://fusioninvestor.blogspot.com/2008/09/why-you-should-oppose-dna-bill.html

5. What annoys me is that this has been going on in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, and not just 2004!

6. A prudent and responsible organizer should have identified this problem, even before the first NS program in 2004 is implemented.

7. It doesn't take a genius to know that when you send 10,000 invitations out, you will never get 10,000 attendees!

8. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that when 2004 experience happened, you don't repeat it in 2005, 2006 and now 2007!

9. Who exactly are responsible for the wastage? Is this purely an implementation problem? Or they just simply don't care about the implementation? I can't help but think that they just don't care about the implementation, because if they do, they would have put more effort to make sure that the monies are well spent, and especially, that the horror stories does not happen.

10. What about the poor quality goods? Is the Auditor General wrong in labelling these goods as "low quality" in its report? Or another example of rampant corruption by the BN cronies again? Or is this simply not a problem at all that the Auditor General can just say anything he likes, the newspapers publish anything they like, and the BN government just ignore everything since Malaysians mudah lupa?

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