Faizal Azumu declines KTMB chairman post, to focus on Bersatu

KTMB restructuring since last year with the return of its former CEO Mohd Rani in December

by AFIQ AZIZ / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD

FORMER Perak Mentri Besar (MB) Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu (picture) said he has declined the offer to be the chairman of Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB).

In a text reply to The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) yesterday, Ahmad Faizal said he had discussed the offer with the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in which they agreed on Ahmad Faizal focusing on his political work as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia deputy president.

On Feb 22, TMR reported that Ahmad Faizal, who stepped down from the Perak MB post in December last year, would succeed Datuk Dr Rameli Musa, whose contract expired in February.

Sources told TMR that Ahmad Faizal would be appointed to the position by March, a claim that Ahmad Faizal dismissed, stating that he “has no such information”.

The Tambun MP subsequently told the press that he only knew about the offer through the media report and he would discuss the matter with Muhyiddin, who is also Bersatu president.

“Yes, we have discussed. We have agreed on me giving the ultimate focus to my task and responsibility as the party deputy president. I have, with utmost respect, declined the offer,” Ahmad Faizal said when contacted.

KTMB has seen some restructuring process since last year, as the state-owned train company saw the return of its former CEO Mohd Rani Hisham Samsudin in December, replacing former air force man Datuk Kamarulzaman Zainal.

Kamarulzaman had served the company for a year and no reason was given for his departure.

Meanwhile, Rameli, formerly chairman of Balfour Beatty Rail Sdn Bhd (BBRail), had been involved in several railway projects, such as the Klang Valley Double Track (KVDT), Rawang-Ipoh Double Track and the Northern Double Track, through BBRail.

Industry experts predict that the new chairman would have to look at several KTMB issues, including the impacts of the ongoing KVDT Phase 2 contract cancellation which KTMB union claimed would endanger the safety of its workers.

KTMB ridership was also halved since last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is unlikely the company could receive a normal take-up within this year while continuously relying on the government coffers for its operation costs.

“On top of this, KTMB and its assets owner, Railway Assets Corp (RAC), have yet to reach an agreement on the Railway Network Access Agreement (RNAA) — a deal which will set the details and payments of the rails used by KTMB.

“So, besides looking after the governance issues, these may be the considerations (to be taken into account) for someone taking up the job, as KTMB assets are still parked under RAC, making it hard to be managed,” an industry source, who wanted to remain anonymous, told TMR.

The initial RNAA was set in 2016. But the deal has been delayed several times as KTMB did not agree with the principle of RNAA being facilitated by the Ministry of Transport where RAC reports to.

KTMB, on the other hand, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance.

There were reportedly proposals to merge both entities last year, but Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong had dismissed the claim.

It was reported that RAC holds a staggering RM40 billion of KTMB assets including lands, railways, signalling systems and rolling stocks.

As of now, KTMB still relies heavily on government cash despite its huge debt having already been absorbed by RAC.

The Auditor-General’s Report 2018 Series 2 issued in December 2019 also revealed that KTMB’s accumulated loss as of Dec 31, 2018, stood at RM2.83 billion.

“So, unless both organisations are consolidated, or the chairman holds executive chairman power at both organisations, KTMB and RAC, there is nothing much a KTMB chairman can do to help the railway company sustain better,” said the observer.