Ex-Chief: RM85.5M Too Much for JASA

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Allocation to reconstitute JASA an extravagance at a time the country is battling Covid-19.

The former director-general of the Special Affairs Department (JASA) has criticised the RM85.5 million allocation to the agency under the national budget tabled in the Dewan Rakyat last Friday.

Puad Zarkashi, who is an Umno Supreme Council member, said there was no need for Putrajaya to be apologetic or defensive over JASA, adding that the agency served to disseminate information and was used for strategic communications.

“It will continue to be linked to politics. The issue here is that the RM85.5 million allocation for JASA is too big.

“That allocation is not sensitive to the (country’s) ‘priority’ while we are facing a third wave of Covid-19 infections,” he said in a Facebook post.

The allocation would open up the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to allegations of ignoring Yang diPertuan Agong’s advice to prioritise public welfare and interest, he added.

Puad served as the director-general of JASA from March 2015 to April 2018, before the agency was shut down in May 2018 after Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over.

The former Barisan Nasional (BN) government had allocated RM30 million for the department in the 2018 budget.

“The department does not need such a large allocation, as what is more important is JASA’s effectiveness. Unless, the funds are intended for other reasons,” Puad said of the allocation for next year.

Commenting on rumours that Seberang Jaya assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin would be made the D-G of the reconstituted Jasa, Puad noted that the former was linked to the so-called PKR “Kartel” of Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

Puad also observed that the communications and multimedia minister was Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, another former PKR leader aligned with Azmin.

Returning to the RM85 million allocation, Puad insisted that Jasa never needed so much money to be effective previously.

He questioned Saifuddin’s defence of the large allocation, after Saifuddin said it will also be used for the hiring of more staff.

“Will these funds be used to strengthen PPBM’s machinery or sponsor certain political portals, given that social media is likely to be the main tool for campaigning because of new SOPs for elections?

“So, it is better for the government to make amendments (to the budget) before it is passed. Follow the 2018 (allocation) ceiling or reduce it a bit,” Puad said.

On Saturday, Umno leaders, including its vice-president Khaled Nordin, also raised questions about the RM85.5 million allocation for Jasa and urged Putrajaya to justify spending such a large amount of money when funding should be focused on Covid-19.