Suspicion raised on govt use of KWAN fund

A lawmaker urges govt to reconvene Parliament to allow PSC to function to ensure transparency in the use of the fund


POLITICIANS and experts have criticised the government’s move to use funds from the National Trust Fund (KWAN) to procure Covid-19 vaccines and any related expenses.

The government has used its Emergency powers to introduce a new law that allows it to tap into the RM16 billion national savings fund.

Kuching MP Kelvin Yii said Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin must reconvene the Parliament and allow the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to function, so that the government can be transparent with their plans in tapping into the fund.

“The PM should at least allow the (committee) to function and provide bipartisan parliamentary oversight over such additional spending to make sure that it is not abused and effectively used for its intended target,” Yii said.

“Fact of the matter, last year, the Parliament had already passed a budget of RM3 billion for the procurement of the vaccines and recently, they also used their Emergency powers to increase that budget to RM5 billion without going through the Parliament,” he said.

“So, the fact that the government has to tap into funds that were reserved for future generations shows (the government’s) failure in managing our country through this crisis.

“Not just failure to manage the spread of Covid-19, but also failure to uplift our economy on top of jeopardising the future of our next generations,” Yii said.

Yii wants absolute transparency from the government on how they intend to use the funds and whether it is justifiable, to prevent any hint of abuse.

KWAN is a savings fund collected from the harvesting of the country’s natural resources and is estimated to contain more than RM16 billion.

Based on the National Trust Fund Act 1988, the fund is paid through consolidated funds and Petroliam Nasional Bhd.

The government used its Emergency powers to amend that Act, which limits its use for development and granting loans or advances on concessionary terms to the state or federal government.

With an amendment to Section 6 of the Act, the government can now withdraw funds for vaccines and related expenses. Economist Dr Nungsari Ahmad Radhi said KWAN is supposed to be for the future generations and any withdrawal has to obtain Parliament’s approval.

“That’s why it has never been used,” he said, save for one project — Malaysia Wetlands Sanctuary.

He added that in 2016, the fund had RM16.4 billion in its coffers.

Another economist, Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid, said it was shocking for the government to tap into KWAN when it could easily raise funds from other sources.

“It is injustice and irresponsible to use KWAN money for so-called vaccine expenditures. Budget 2021 already allocated RM3 billion. The public should be informed why the government needs more money for vaccines. How much will be withdrawn from KWAN?

“The government should, and must, tell the public,” the former economic advisor to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

He said even during the economic crises of 1998 and 2008, the government had never had to use the fund.

“The aim of KWAN is simple, to ensure Malaysia has some savings when our oil resources are depleted. It is for our future generations. Why are we taking it from them?”