SHAH ALAM, Malaysia - In a rare appearance at a public forum on Thursday, Malaysia's Auditor-General took the heads of government departments and agencies to task for the continuing loss of millions of dollars of public money each year, blaming them for a lack of diligence.
Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, who has held the post for six years, has produced yearly reports detailing abuse and waste in public spending, from the eye-popping to the banal. He said he did not know how many officials have been punished as internal probes are done by the Public Service Department.
"If we simply monitor from the office and don't go down to the ground to inspect contractors and consultants, they will cut corners," Mr Ambrin told an audience of several hundred at a public forum organised by the Malay-language daily Sinar Harian. "And why should you (heads of departments) take action only after the audit report comes out?"
Before a crowd of mostly private-sector workers, bloggers and opposition supporters, he said he was there to explain his department's role amid the public uproar over his report's findings, and to emphasise that he was merely a "messenger". "Some people comment on the report without even reading it," he said.
Last year's Auditor-General report was tabled in Parliament earlier this month on Oct 1. The annual litany of abuses, detailed in 32 volumes covering 160 cases, angered many Malaysians, who are struggling with rising living costs.
Malaysia's national audit has consistently highlighted massive cost overruns for government projects and lapses in budget monitoring by the police and other key departments.
For instance, the latest report said RM2.05 billion (S$801 million) had been spent on sub-standard security services for schools between 2010 and last year. The police force, in turn, was found to have lost 44 units of firearms, 156 handcuffs and 29 vehicles between 2010 and last year, in assets totalling RM1.33 million. The annual audit has led to spectacular scandals in the past.