Govt to open inquiry into missing RM18b GST refund

Finance Minister Lim says he has all the paper and money trail records


THE government will launch an open inquiry into the alleged RM18 billion consumption tax refunds’ disappearance as legislators from the previous administration dismiss the claim as a “political blame game”.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who exposed the RM18 billion shortfall for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) input refunds to legislators on Wednesday, said the ministry will recommend for an open inquiry to Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Cabinet.

“It is not impossible for us to find who ordered the embezzlement of the input tax credit (ITC) because I have all the paper and money trail records.

“I will propose for an open inquiry to the PM after internal investigation is over,” he told the Dewan Rakyat.

Lim said the Royal Malaysian Customs Department had disbursed a total of RM64 billion in ITC since 2015, but the reasons behind the unpaid RM19.4 billion are best known by former Treasury secretary general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah.

“The former Treasury secretary general will be called to testify on why the funds from the consolidated funds are not transferred to the trust fund, which would have been used for tax refund purposes. The main question is why he ordered such (transfer), and who ordered him to do so,” Lim said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the finance minister told the media at the Parliament lobby that the government will lodge an official report to the police and the anti-graft body after the open inquiry.

“We will let the internal inquiry to come out with the proper documentation and we hope to give to the PM as soon as possible to get suggestions, and perhaps do an open public inquiry.

“We will make a police report based on the recommendations made by the inquiry. We first want to see the outcome of the internal and open public inquiry. Let’s judge everyone with facts and figures, not falsehood,” Lim said.

The missing RM18 billion GST refund is the latest financial scandal to hit Malaysia after 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), from which about US$4.5 billion (RM18.31 billion) had been allegedly stolen.

Pakatan Harapan is also facing a rising national debt, which it claimed had breached RM1 trillion.

Former Deputy PM Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday criticised Lim for accusing the former Barisan Nasional (BN) government of stealing the RM18 billion.

Ahmad Zahid, who is head of the Opposition in the legislative assembly, said the Pakatan Harapan government should find the solution instead of playing the blame game.

“They should act like the government and stop acting like the Opposition,” he said at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Meanwhile, former Treasury secretary general Mohd Irwan has denied the allegation on the missing RM18 billion.

According to Bernama, he said all GST proceeds were placed in the consolidated fund before the monies were channelled to the trust fund to repay GST claims.

He said the money is channelled when there is a request from Customs and such procedure was provided for under the Financial Procedure Act 1957. Mohd Irwan said the information was available from the Accountant General’s Department and the Fiscal Division of the Ministry of Finance (MoF).

“Every sen is accounted for. It is the people’s money, which is why it is much more important to be credited to the consolidated fund. When it’s needed, it will be taken out (from the consolidated fund),” he was reported as saying in Putrajaya yesterday.

MP Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau), who has been at loggerhead with Lim in the Dewan Rakyat over the missing RM18 billion, lodged a police report yesterday to enable the authorities to investigate Lim’s claim.

The former Cabinet minister is expected to lodge another report at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) today.

In a series of tweets, Khairy said: “The RM19 billion from consolidated fund that was supposed to be transferred to GST ITC trust account to pay back the claims were never transferred and kena ‘rompak’.

“Hence, my police and MACC report against the then minister and top officials of MoF,” he tweeted, adding that instead of an internal inquiry by the MoF, he hopes the police and the MACC will investigate Lim’s allegation.

“Otherwise, we are left with sensational headlines about RM18 billion missing or stolen without any real evidence being presented.

If true, bring those responsible to justice. As a former minister, such a misappropriation, if true, must be investigated thoroughly and openly,” he added.

MP Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed (BN-Jeli) also urged the government to immediately investigate Lim’s allegation that the former BNled government had stolen RM18 billion.

“These allegations are very serious as it meant misuse of power and misappropriations were planned.

“The image of both the previous government and civil servants are tarnished. In my opinion, an indepth investigation must be carried out immediately and completed within one week,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Mustapa was referring to the civil servants in the MoF and Customs.