MACC to charge 9 companies over misuse of Mitra funds

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Anti-corruption authorities have a case against nine of 10 companies investigated over the misappropriation of tens of millions of ringgit from the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (Mitra), sources said.

Mohd Sahar Misni/The Star

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has found malpractice involving senior officials from the nine firms, sources told The Malaysian Insight.

“Ten companies have been investigated to date, involving an allocation of RM26 million. Charges can be proposed for nine of them,” a source said.

“Investigations into the remaining 22 companies of the 32 under suspicion will be carried out this month.”

The source said MACC has examined the applications for funding meant for socio-economic programmes to uplift the Indian community from 2019 until this year.

The agency also studied expenditure reports and the supposed programmes that included floristry classes, tuition classes for primary school children and various certification programmes, none of which materialised.

“Investigations into the 10 companies found that most of the grants were misused for personal purposes and some even involved the submission of false documents,” the source said.

As of today, 21 people – 17 men and four women – have been arrested to facilitate investigations. All of them have been released.

The investigations have focused on funds released since 2019 for 337 programmes that were worth more than RM203 million.

For 2019 alone, more than RM90 million had been released for 205 programmes, according to the source.

“For 2020, funds were released by two different ministries. More than RM29 million for 62 programmes was released when Mitra was under the Prime Minister’s Department, and then over RM60 million for 57 programmes when it was under the Ministry of National Unity,” the source said.

For this year, an allocation of more than RM22 million was released for 13 programmes, the source said.

MACC is dividing its probe into two areas according to the amount of the allocations.

One is on 27 companies and civil society groups that received between RM1 million and RM9 million, and the other on 310 companies that each received funding of less than RM1 million.

MACC has also set up an internal investigation team together with the National Unity Ministry.

National Unity Minister Halimah Mohamed Sadique said recently that neither she nor the director-general had played any role in approving Mitra grants, which she said is under the full control of the Mitra grant evaluation committee chaired by the ministry’s secretary-general.

The companies and civil society groups involved are said to be linked to senior leaders of a political party.

In Parliament, opposition lawmaker RSN Rayer has asked why MACC has yet to arrest any leader of MIC, the Indian party that is in the Barisan Nasional coalition.

Meanwhile, Penang deputy chief minister P Ramasamy said the MACC should probe Mitra’s predecessor to show that it is not being selective in its investigations.

He said MACC’s investigations cover the period when Pakatan Harapan (PH) was in power, but not Mitra’s predecessor, the Socio-Economic Development of the Indian Community unit (Sedic), which was established by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

“Why has MACC shown little or no interest in the disbursement of funds when Sedic was in operation under the BN administration?” he said in a statement today.

Ramasamy added that there were allegations of millions of ringgit in funds meant to aid the Indian community being fraudulently disbursed to companies and individuals aligned with BN or MIC.

He said selective investigations will not bring justice to poor Indians, who had been taken for a ride by unscrupulous company directors, politicians and individuals.

Ramasamy said after the PH coalition took over Putrajaya in 2018, Sedic was renamed Mitra, but the change in name was “purely cosmetic”.

“The funds meant for the targeted community were disbursed indirectly to the Indian poor, through numerous NGOs.

“This indirect disbursal of funds was the source of the problem. It gave rise to misuse and misappropriation of funds,” he added.

Mitra, like its predecessor Sedic, was previously under the prime minister’s department but has now been placed under the national unity ministry.