Reasons for not disclosing the details of the water agreement between the Selangor government and Putrajaya does not make sense and raises suspicion.
By Charles Santiago
Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Maximus Ongkili has put forward three arguments in refusing to declassify the master agreement detailing the water-restructuring exercise between the federal government and the state government of Selangor.
None of them makes any sense to me.
In fact, his arguments only raises my suspicion that the underlying reason for keeping the agreement hushed up is because it is lop-sided in favour of the federal government.
The Umno-led ruling government will have ownership and control of the project and the Selangor state government is relegated to a status of a junior partner.
The federal government will make decisions on costs, financing, technology, contractors, infrastructure and other key areas.
The Selangor government’s responsibility will be to facilitate land acquisition, issuing development orders and getting the local authorities to expedite various approvals.
The implications of such a skewed division of labour are serious.
For one, Selangor will have no control over costs, including cost escalation. We have seen huge cost overruns in projects managed by the federal government or GLCs, like KLIA2.
The construction of KLIA2 was initially estimated at RM1.7 billion but the final cost doubled to about RM4 billion.
The state and the people of Selangor will have to absorb the increases and this will be passed on to consumers in terms of higher tariffs.
It will unnecessarily burden the people of Selangor, especially the lower and middle class and the poor.
Open tenders can be put aside and crony companies could be awarded contracts, negating principles of transparency and good governance promoted by the state government.
So clearly, Ongkili and the government have decided to keep a lid on the real reasons, fearing it will create dissatisfaction among the people.
During the parliamentary debate on the 2015 budget involving his ministry, Ongkili indicated that he was unable to disclose the agreement as it would have an impact on the buying and selling or valuation of concessionaire company stocks in the market.
Ongkili also mentioned that the federal government would have to get permission from Selangor, Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad, concession companies and cabinet before he could disclose the agreement.
However, the new Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali indicated that he wants the agreement made public based on the principles of transparency, good governance and accountability.
The markets have already factored-in the cost involved in the buying and selling of concession companies’ asset and stock values based on media reports.
Thus, Ongkili’s concern that disclosing the agreement would create speculation and a major impact on the value of concessionaire stock has no basis. And the minister agreed with me in Parliament on this point.
Therefore, one can conclude the stumbling block in making the agreement public is the federal government.
The federal government realises if the master agreement is made public, it will create anger and disgust against them, especially from the people of Selangor.
Can the federal government and Ongkili prove me wrong?
Charles Santiago is the MP for Klang