KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — At a time of austerity and subsidy cuts, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) revealed today that the government spent more than RM180 million for fuel and maintenance to fly private for official trips in 2012.
In a written reply to Seremban MP Anthony Loke, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the government owns and operates six private jets known as Government Executive Jets (VVIP).
They include one unit of Falcon jet, one Global Express, one Boeing Business Jet, one Blackhawk, and two Agusta jets.
”For the cost of fuel for all aircrafts used in 2012 is RM14,951,448 and RM167,079,541.80 was spent on maintenance costs,” he said.
Just last month, Shahidan said in a written parliamentary reply to Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming that Putrajaya spends RM28.8 million in annual rental and RM5.5 million to maintain the VVIP government jet ACJ319, the private aircraft used to ferry prime ministers much like the Air Force One in the US.
“To ensure the VVIP government jet ACJ319 remain in a good condition and has the highest level of safety, the government has spent US$25.2 million (RM80.12 million) in rental costs, RM16.52 million for maintenance and RM3.32 million for modification works from the year 2010 to last year,” Shahidan said in the reply.
Nga had asked the ministry to reveal details on the costs involved in buying or renting the official jet, its maintenance bills and the price of modification works that goes with it from 2000 until today.
Nga later told reporters in Parliament that in addition to the private jet costs, the government had also forked out RM44 million to fund the prime minister’s overseas travels since 2008.
The Taiping MP suggested the prime minister could travel first class on Malaysia’s flag carrier Malaysia Airlines, emulating his counterpart in Singapore, as it would save “millions” of taxpayers’ money.
Nga also urged the Auditor-General to audit the Prime Minister’s Department to prove that it is transparent and is accountable for the ministry’s financial management.
Today, Shahidan also revealed that there were 372 flights recorded last year alone, to 339 destinations on official government business.
Loke said that this is another example of wastage involving the government’s expenditure, particularly on the highest government officials.
“The government asked the people to tighten their belts, lower their costs and reduce subsidy but every time we get these answers, it shows that the government is not reducing their expenditure,” he said.
Loke also pointed out that on average, each flight costs RM489,330.
“Based on the number of times the aircrafts were used in 2012 -- 372, that means there is at least one flight daily, of course the prime minister doesn’t go overseas every day... of course this also involve domestic flights,” he said, and argued that private jets were not necessary for flights within the country.
Loke’s ally from PAS, Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar, who was also at the press conference, suggested that the government’s top executives should fly using commercial airplanes more frequently from next year onwards, including for their overseas trips.
He proposed that the private jets be reserved only for Malaysia’s King.
“The executive aircrafts should only be used by the Agong, because he doesn’t travel as often.
“It is the prime minister and his deputy that are always using the aircrafts which is wasting the people and the country’s money,” Mahfuz said.