Millions paid to an ‘insolvent company’

By Joseph Tawie

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Numpang must explain the state government’s failure to meet self-sufficiency in rice production.

The Sarawak government has awarded an “insolvent company with an accumulated loss of RM11.685 million” the contract to manage mini rice estates in Bundong-Sian, Sungai Tulai and Sungai Tekap for 20 years, the State Legislative Assembly heard today.

Meradong assemblywoman Ting Pui Tze who raised the matter at the assembly sitting said: “The Auditor-General’s Report revealed that the government has spent about RM23.4 million to develop the three mini paddy estates under the sole control and management of the Farmers Organisation which, in turn, appointed Opol Enterprise Sdn Bhd to manage the mini estate project for 20 years.”

“From my search with the Registrar of Companies, I found that Opol Enterprise has assets of RM4.32 million, but it has current liabilities of RM9.939 million and an accumulated loss of RM11.685 million,” she said during the debate on the 2012 state budget.

“It is an insolvent company. So how can this company be granted with a 20-year contract to oversee, manage and control the mini paddy estates in Meradong?.

“(State) Modernisation of Agriculture Minister Alfred Jabu Numpang must inform this house honestly and transparently as to what and how much direct grants have been given to this company in the past five years and how much rice has this company produced.”

Ting said Jabu (who is also deputy chief minister) also must explain why the many other paddy estates developed in the state had failed or gone defunct.

Ting also demanded that the minister explain why the state had failed to reach its much-publicised targets of self-sufficiency in rice production.

Ting was referring to a state government policy to increase the local rice production from 35 percent in 2000 to 50 percent by 2005, 70 percent by 2010, and 100 percent self-sufficiency by 2015.

However, earlier this month the permanent secretary to the Modernisation of Agriculture Ministry made a shocking disclosure in Sibu when he said Sarawak had only achieved 30 to 35 percent self-sufficiency in rice production.

Failed mini estates

That same day, the Sibu Rice Wholesaler Association said that 80 percent of the white rice consumed in Sarawak is imported from Thailand and Vietnam.

“What has gone wrong that has led to the failure of these mini estates where our goal is to achieve 70 percent self-sufficiency in rice production in 2010?

“Under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, the Agriculture Department approved 16 areas in Sarawak to be developed with paddy mini estates,” Ting said.

“However, in 2005 only three out of the 16 areas have been developed, namely Bundong-Sian (410ha), Sungai Tulai (460ha) and Sungai Tekap (226ha).

“What has the Agriculture Ministry been doing in the past few years?

“Were site inspections carried out? Were there audit of how millions of ringgit were spent on the mini-estates?

“If the answer is in the negative, and if that is the policy of the state government, it is no wonder that Sarawak, being the largest state in Malaysia, only comes fourth behind these tiny states like Kedah, Perak and Kelantan in rice production,” Ting said during the debate on the 2012 budget.

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