KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 ― Two DAP lawmakers blamed today Tan Sri Annuar Musa for what they alleged to be entrenched corruption practices within Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) and demanded the chairman be sacked, after the federal agency was hit with a multi-million ringgit property scandal in Australia.
Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari and Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim blasted Annuar attempting to wiggle his way out of the hot seat by passing the buck to the National Economic Council chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
They also flayed him for making “contradictory” statements on subsidiary MARA Inc Sdn Bhd’s purchase of a student apartment block in Melbourne two years ago where A$4.75 million was unaccounted for.
“Annuar Musa should be sacked as MARA chairman following his failure to rid the institution of corruption and mismanagement,” the two federal opposition lawmakers said in a joint statement.
They pointed out that in his news conference yesterday, Annuar had said the A$22.5 million (RM65 million) price tag MARA Inc paid for the property was thought to be a bargain at that time but in the next breath had claimed to have personally highlighted concerns about the deal following his visit to Melbourne last year, leading to an internal investigation by MARA that apparently started two months ago.
“Does Annuar even know what he is saying? If the deal had been value for money as he alleges, then what concerns did he bring up to the council, and why was an internal investigation conducted?” the DAP duo asked.
Sim and Zairil also pointed out Annuar had conceded MARA’s reputation had been tarnished by rent seekers, mismanagement and corruption issues and vowed to curb such practices.
They pointed out that the Auditor-General has also highlighted many financial discrepancies in MARA amounting to RM124.55 million in his 2013 report and added that two senior MARA officials, Datuk Dr Abdul Shariff Hamid and programme manager Zainal Rashid Zakaria were convicted of forgery pertaining to claims amounting to RM304,650 the same year.
However, they said nothing had changed in the two years since Annuar took the job, pointing that four more MARA officials have been charged over falsifying their travel claims amounting to “tens of thousands of ringgit.”
Local media organisations on Tuesday picked up news from Australian paper The Age which alleged that a senior MARA official and two “elite” Malay businessmen were involved in corrupt practices related to the A$22.5 million Dudley House in Melbourne.
According to The Age, an eight month-long investigation by Fairfax Media, its parent publishing house, revealed that this group of “super-rich Malaysian officials” had spent government investment funds to push up the price of the student housing block that was built for A$17.8 million, but inflated by A$4.75 million to A$22.5 million.
Annuar later said during a press conference yesterday that he thought its subsidiary MARA Inc got a good deal when it paid A$22.5 million for the Melbourne apartment in 2013.
He also explained yesterday that the federal agency’s property investment subsidiary accused of taking a US$4.75 million bribe from the Australia property deal has already been audited for suspected financial mismanagement.
Although Annuar said that MARA had ordered an audit on its subsidiary, he would not disclose if this included investigation on the Melbourne property purchase
MARA Inc has been instructed to explain in writing the allegation made by The Age in seven days and the MARA board is expected to deliberate on a decision three days after.
At the same time Annuar said he wants the relevant authorities to begin investigation into the deal immediately.
The Age incriminated the Australian property developer’s joint-venture partners, Malaysians Datuk Yusof Gani and Datuk Ahmad Azizi in its expose, together with a wider circle of their business associates: former politician turned MARA Investment chairman Datuk Mohammad Lan Allani and a MARA chief executive Datuk Halim Rahman.