Pakatan MPs urge accountability in Covid-19 food basket aid amid claims of mismanagement

Yeoh said until a list of those who were given the food baskets to be distributed is made available, PH MPs will continue to raise the issue to the ministry. — Bernama pic
Yeoh said until a list of those who were given the food baskets to be distributed is made available, PH MPs will continue to raise the issue to the ministry. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Amid allegations that the distribution of food basket aid to B40 households affected by the movement control order (MCO) have been “politically hijacked”, several Pakatan Harapan (PH) MPs are now demanding that the federal government be held accountable, as the process involves taxpayers’ money.

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh said there must be accountability in the distribution of aid as each parliamentary constituency was promised 1,000 food baskets worth RM100 each — totalling a whopping RM22.2 million for 222 constituencies nationwide.

Yeoh’s remarks come after Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun refuted allegations that the distribution of food basket aid to B40 households affected by the MCO was limited to selected parliamentary constituencies.

“The significant problem that we (PH MPs) face is when the aid is distributed through Perikatan Nasional (PN) political branches at the respective parliamentary seat and not to the MPs chosen by the constituents. This will cause overlapping and wastage issues.

“Therefore, I am urging Rina to expedite the list of those who have received said aid in each seat to show accountability for how the people’s money is being spent,” she said during a Facebook Live discussion on the food basket issue with three other PH MPs late last night.

For example, Yeoh explained, a family who received a hamper from the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) may receive similar aid from the Welfare Department, while some families may receive none as long as a ‘master list’ and structured distribution process are non-existent.

Other panellists in attendance were Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Lumut MP Datuk Dr Mohd Hatta Md Ramli and Johor Baru MP Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir.

Despite her earlier remarks, all three MPs confirmed they have yet to receive the promised 1,000 food baskets from Rina’s ministry since the distribution began in early April.

The Finance Ministry had previously allocated 1,000 food hampers worth RM100 to each MP in the country, while Nadma had allocated 1,000 food hampers worth RM50 to every district, which in turn would be distributed by the respective MPs.

Yeoh also said until a list of those who were given the food baskets to be distributed is made available, PH MPs will continue to raise the issue to the ministry.

In recent days, PH MPs have criticised the PN government for practising double standards and for allowing political affiliations to get in the way of its decision-making process in the distribution of aid during the MCO.

According to Yeoh, she attested that aid was given to political branches belonging to the ruling parties at the respective constituency to be coordinated instead of elected representatives chosen by the constituents.

The former Selangor Assembly Speaker’s remarks were earlier corroborated by Muhammad Bakhtiar, Dr Mohd Hatta and Akmal Nasir when they were asked to describe the ongoing situation in their respective constituencies by Yeoh.

Akmal Nasir also advised Rina to empower MPs as the latter knows better who is eligible and what are the items urgently needed in a constituency as logistics have suffered a setback with the alleged appointment of “political agents” from the ruling coalition.

“If you empower them, the one that will be thankful is not the MP but the people who will embrace the government’s effort to reject the use of political channels and political affiliations in a time of crisis,” he said.

Both Dr Mohd Hatta and Muhammad Bakthiar also reminded the ruling coalition not to “play politics” to score “political points” before stating they were more than prepared to work with the National Welfare Department on the aid distribution process.

“Such issues should not have arisen; this is all unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy,” Dr Mohd Hatta said.

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