Outrage over fat cheques paid to Puncak Niaga directors

Harakahdaily, 22 August 2012

Aug 22: Rights group Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) has added to public outrage over the revelation that Puncak Niaga Holdings paid some RM17 million as directors fees last year despite making a pre-tax loss of RM75.2 million.

THE ONE PERCENT? ... Puncak Niaga's board of directors. At the top is Rozali Ismail, who is also executive chairman of SYABAS.

In a statement, Proham secretary general Dr Denison Jayasooria and member Ramon Navaratnam expressed their "shock and disbelief", adding that core principles of the government's privatisation plan, which includes benefit for consumers in terms of quality of services and lower prices, had been ignored.

The group pointed out a recent appraisal of the privatisation project by renowned economist Prof Jomo KS and Jeff Tan, in which they said there had not been any competition between private companies to bring about better services as many of these companies remained "virtual monopolies".

Furthermore, costs of services have risen, while the politically connected were made wealthier, the group quoted the duo's recently published work "Lessons From Privatisations".

"In this context Proham calls on the Federal Government to review all the public utility companies where were privatized and which supply basic needs ie water, electricity, transport, housing to ensure that these privatized companies fulfil the principle objectives as set in the EPU Privatization Guidelines," said Proham.

Earlier, the Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP), comprising of over 50 civil society groups, described the payments as "madness".

"The cost of paying the directors is ultimately transferred to the consumers. You and I are footing the bill," said its coordinator and Klang member of parliament Charles Santiago.

Puncak Niaga owns Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (SYABAS), the water concessionaire now locked in a battle with the Pakatan Rakyat-controlled Selangor state government after the latter refused to allow the UMNO-linked firm to raise water tariff.

Financial journal Malaysian Business recently released its top fifty list of highest paid directors in the country, ranking Puncak Niaga director at the sixteenth spot.

The report revealed that one of company's directors had received some RM8.4 million last year, higher than what was paid to top airlines tycoon Tony Fernandez.

Earlier, the Selangor state government proposed to sack the top duo of SYABAS, its executive chairman Rozali Ismail and CEO Ruslan Hassan, after the company failed to provide a satisfactory answer to the state’s SYABAS monitoring committee on recent claims of a 'water crisis' in the state.

Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim has disclosed that the dismissal of Rozali alone could save RM5.1 million annually.

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