Guan Eng orders Finance Ministry probe into delayed salaries, EPF payments for Bernama staff

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng rejected Bernama CEO Nurini Kassim’s claim that the government could not afford to pay salaries due to financial constraints as baseless. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng rejected Bernama CEO Nurini Kassim’s claim that the government could not afford to pay salaries due to financial constraints as baseless. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — The Finance Ministry (MoF) is investigating claims of disrupted payments for staff of national news agency Bernama.

Its minister Lim Guan Eng was responding to claims from Bernama’s senior management that the agency had not received its government grant, forcing the company to dip into the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to pay the July salaries for workers and may not be able to pay this month’s salary either.

“I have ordered the Finance Ministry to start investigations to find out who should be responsible for this serious position and who halted payments for the EPF contributions so that action can be taken.

“The Federal Government is not a bankrupt government as certain states that cannot afford to pay members of their administration,” he said in a statement.

He also rejected Bernama CEO Nurini Kassim’s claim that the government could not afford to pay salaries due to financial constraints as baseless.

“The ministry always prioritises the payment of salaries, including for EPF contributions. Emoluments and salaries will always be given sufficient allocation so that emoluments can be paid first, compared to other payments,” Lim said.

“This raises doubt on whether the money that should have been allocated for the emoluments, salaries and EPF contribution have been ‘diverted’ by Bernama for other payments,” he added.

He said the allegations have tarnished his ministry’s reputation, asserting that the MoF was frequently blamed when it or an agency under its purview overspent its budget.

The minister noted recent news reports citing Bernama’s senior accounts and finance manager Syarifah Zaini Syed Zain claiming a delay in the news agency’s government grant for the third quarter of this year, ostensibly because the ministry has yet to approve the funds, resulting in hardship for staff who were defaulted for not paying their car loans on time. 

Some of them reportedly have their monthly salaries deducted for their car loans, the last deduction being in June.

According to media reports, Bernama claimed there is no guarantee that it will be able to pay out staff salaries expected August 22-23. 

Lim debunked the news reports, saying his ministry only received a letter of request from Bernama dated July 19 this year on July 22.

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