NFC: When They Will Be Really Honest?

(Countdown – 336 days to “doomsday”)

(An unexpected revelation of corruption involves the cows or an internal chess-play for the Pantai Parliamentary seat? Cartoon source: Zunar / Malaysiakini)

It could be just an hypothetical question but here’s one last post before the holidays…

This article by Citizen Nades on the NFC mess was a good one and if you had missed reading this in The Sun last Wednesday, here it is in verbatim (basically it nails the same thing that every tax payer has in their mind):-

Be honest and answer all questions
R. Nadeswaran

RULE No 1 in a calamity, according to the gurus of crisis communications, is that you should never run away from a problem as it will not bring about a solution. The more you try to hide, the more will be out in the open. You can never solve a crisis by remaining silent. The more you put a spin on a crisis, the more attention it attracts. The golden rule is: Be honest and answer all questions.

Today’s column is not an exercise in public relations or crisis communications, but three bulletins from Ghazalie Abdullah who describes himself as one who “counsels, writes, speaks, designs, articulates and steers corporations on using public relations to achieve their corporate, financial and marketing goals” provoked some thought into the whole affair involving the National Feedlot Corporation.

On Dec 23 last year, journalists received a statement from Ghazali which read: “As part of the ongoing investigations, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers visited National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd today. The management and staff welcomed the visit and extended their full cooperation. It is the view of the National Feedlot Corporation that this afternoon’s visit by the MACC was not a raid as reported.”
Really? Did they come for Darjeeling tea, muffins and scones or teh tarik and kuih? Perhaps a dictionary would have helped explain the meaning of the word “raid”. If they came a visiting like we visit each other’s open houses, would they be carting away CPUs and files?

The second followed a day later. It said that “NFC Chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail wishes to clarify to the media that the Datuk apprehended by the police recently, is not related to him or any member of his family.”

How did anyone know the identity of the Datuk when the police had not even produced him in court or charged him? Ghazali must be aware that the media in Malaysia never identify any suspect or arrested person unless he or she is charged with an offence. Surely, Salleh or Ghazali must have had inside information!

But what arrived in the inbox two days ago was something extraordinary. For starters, the statement said: “With police investigations on NFC reported concluded, NFC has today emerged to clarify the allegation that directors of the company have been receiving huge unjustifiable salaries.”

Who decides if the police have concluded investigations, and even if they have done so, it is for the police to say so. Emerged? From where – from hiding or from a taxpayer-funded holiday?

Executive director Wan Shahinur Izmir Salleh clarified that the directors were earning nowhere near the overstated figures saying that the relevant authorities have the information on their payroll and the bank statements to match.

On a more serious note, I believe him because there has been no documentary evidence presented by the claimants to back the figures which looked exaggerated. But instead of facing the media and answering the questions, why has the company which has “emerged” hiding behind statements?

Wan Shahinur not only assured but “reassured the public should not be unduly alarmed by such postings in the internet that offered distortions and incorrect information.”

Thank you, but how can taxpayers be assured if the amounts have been distorted when the correct figures have not been presented?

He also says the expenses incurred on corporate credit cards were for business development. The business development expenses by the four directors, he says, reflect the magnitude of its multi-million ringgit sales.

But can he tell how much such expenses were. After all, it was taxpayers’ money to the tune of RM250 million that got the NFC going and technically, we are all stakeholders and have a right to know.

While the NFC can beat its chest and claim it has “emerged”, there’re only bits and pieces of information that are “emerging”. It has not denied the purchase of condominium units in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and would NFC care about telling us about the purchase?

Surely, if it was the figment of imagination of some anonymous writer in cyberspace, all right-thinking people will disbelieve him or her. But at media conferences, documents and photographs have been produced to substantiate the claims and the “emergence” of NFC has not seen it fit to tackle these issues.

As much as this writer wants to believe that everything is above board, it becomes painful when selected issues are addressed.

This problem will not go away with terse and selective statements. There’s a Tamil proverb which says that you cannot hide a whole pumpkin in a plate of rice, which is exactly what NFC is trying to do.

Once and for all, put all the cards on the table, come clean and put up your hands if you have done wrong. Only then will the whole nation believe anything that comes from NFC itself or through consultants and counsellors.

R. Nadeswaran says the public has a right to know how taxpayers’ funds are used when the government doles them out to entrepreneurs. He is theSun‘s UK correspondent based in London and can be reached at: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

The allegations of misuse of public funds by NFC stakeholders has been mind boggling – from buying condominiums to settlement of personal credit cards. I am not sure where it will end. The authorities are investigating these allegations of course and the Minister in question has been asked to go on a long leave and NFC’s assets frozen. Now she is suing back too and this may drag things further, at least at the political arena. But basic and simple answer to questions raised is what we want at the end of the day

In the meantime, Happy Chinese New Year and Happy Holidays…

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