Thursday, September 11, 2008

Untimely gift of RM160,000 watch for Khir Toyo

Untimely gift of RM160,000 watch for Khir Toyo
12 Sept, 2008
by Terence Fernandez and R. Nadeswaran, THE SUN

What can you buy with RM160,000? An X-ray machine for one, or five low-cost homes, breakfast for 1,000 poor schoolchildren for two years and feed a hardcore poor family of 10 for almost 20 years!

However, a company owned by the Selangor government, Permodalan Negeri Selangor Berhad (PNSB), deemed that it was better to spend the sum on a watch for its then chairman and mentri besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo.

On Jan 8, PNSB paid RM159,250 for a Patek Philippe watch as “cenderamata untuk pengerusi PNSB” (souvenir for the chairman of PNSB) – Mohamad Khir at that time.

It is understood that the watch in white gold was presented to the former MB before the March 8 general election.

But Mohamad Khir returned the watch. And it was not until two months later that a buyer was found.

“When we presented the watch to Datuk Seri, he declined, saying he did not need such an expensive gift,” said PNSB chief executive officer Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan.

She said a buyer was found in March and the watch was sold for about the same price and the money banked into PNSB’s account.

What is perplexing is that PNSB deemed it fit to spend on such extravagance after posting losses of RM7.5 million in its 2006 financial year. (Companies Commission of Malaysia records show that this was its last financial returns).

But Khairiyah clarified that the company had made a profit of RM10 million and that the watch was a sort of emolument for Mohamad Khir’s “contributions”.

The purchase was not tabled for approval by PNSB’s board of directors. However, Khairiyah said that board approval was not necessary for such purchases.

“We have a certain amount for entertainment and other such expenses which can be decided at management level,” she said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The purchase of the timepiece from Sincere Watch Sdn Bhd was listed as “sundry expenses” by PNSB.

According to a Sincere sales agent, the watch was a collectors’ item from the Perpetual Calendar series, retailed at RM235,600.

The agent expressed surprise at the price PNSB paid, saying that the discount was far more than usual.

“We usually don’t give more than a 15% discount,” she said when theSun contacted Sincere’s outlet in Suria KLCC.

Meanwhile, executive councillor for health, plantation workers’ welfare, poverty eradication and caring government Dr Xavier Jayakumar expressed disgust over the “gift”.

“As an official entrusted to take care of the state, where urban poor is on the rise, I find it disgusting that one can even think of such an expensive gift.

“Do you know how many families we can help with that money?” asked the Sri Andalas assemblyman.

Khairiyah said PNSB was always careful with spending its funds.

“We are mindful that we are dealing with public money but we are also a corporation and it is not unusual for chairmen and directors to receive such benefits,” she said, adding that the purchase of the timepiece was considered “frugal” compared with other firms that dished out large cash dividends and luxury cars for its top executives.

Incorporated on Oct 15, 1990, PNSB is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Selangor state government. With an authorised capital of RM100 million and a paid-up capital of RM24 million, it was specially established to take over the commercial projects of Selangor State Incorporation (SSI), involving a host of diversified activities; namely housing and property, tourism, investment, manufacturing and services.

According to its charter, “PNSB strongly believes in balancing profitability with social responsibility. PNSB is assertively assisting in the evolvement of mesra rakyat”(people-friendly) and Caring Government Programme (Kerajaan Prihatin) of Selangor.”

Khir Toyo

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