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Thursday, April 2, 2009

> State agency funded Khir's Disney tours

Former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo along with his family and other state officials spent almost RM1.6 million on two overseas trips which included a tour of Paris and Orlando Disneyland.

The expenditure list included a 2004 visit to the Disneyland Paris and a four-day transit stopover at Dubai.

This was revealed by an inquiry being conducted by the state's Special Select Committee on Competence, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) today.

Among the other revelations on the overseas trip which took place from Dec 17 to 24, 2004 were:

Joining the trip were Khir's wife Zaharah Kechik, their three children and a maid.

The official delegation spent a total of RM416,000 for the trip.

A 'reconnaissance team' which went to make arrangements for the trip spent RM366,000.

The four-day stopover in Dubai cost the state an additional RM10,000.
All the expenses were covered by state investment arm Perbadanan Nasional Selangor Berhad (PNSB) revealed its chief executive officer Khairiyah Abu Hassan at the inquiry today.

When asked by committee chairperson, Selangor state assembly speaker Teng Chang Kim on the objective of the trip to Morroco and Paris, Khairiyah said the trip to Morroco was an exposure visit to study the architecture in the country.

“We wanted to see the architecture there as they reflected the glory days of the Islamic empire and we had wanted to try and adopt it here in Selangor,” said the PNSB CEO.

No concrete outcome from the visit

However, when asked if there was any concrete outcome from the visit, Khairiyah conceded that nothing was done apart from initial “talks” of developing such buildings.

The committee also discovered some discrepancies for this trip in the likes of PNSB financing the air tickets and accommodation for Khir’s children.

Khairiyah when queried on whether or not there is a policy in PNSB to finance the expenses of its board members’ children for their official trip, reluctantly answered “no”, but did not elaborate further on why the GLC had done so.

As for the Disneyland Paris trip, Khairiyah said the trip was an official "technical visit" to study the concept of the world famous theme park as PNSB had wanted to develop its own theme park at the Sepang gold coast area in Bagan Lalang.

It is also revealed that for the same purpose, Khir’s entourage spent another RM648,841 of PNSB’s money for a nine-day trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and the Disneyland in Orlando, United States from Dec 23, 2007 to Jan 1, 2008.

Out of the total sum, about RM110,000 were spent on Khir’s lodging alone while RM171,000 were spent on six single supplementary rooms with some of them housing Khir’s children.

However it is not known whether the expenses of Khir’s children were financed by PNSB, Khairiyah said in response to queries on the matter.

The Disneyland trips, suggested one of the committee members PKR vice-president and Bukit Antarabangsa state rep Azmin Ali, were nothing but a leisure trip.

Delegation welcomed by a tour guide

Documents revealed that no serious technical meetings between the management of Disneyland and the so-called official delegation led by Khir took place.

“Instead, the delegation was welcomed by a mere tour guide from the Selangor tour agency company that had supplied the air tickets to the delegation.

“If it is really a technical visit. A serious meeting between Disneyland and the delegation should have took place but instead the delegation paid for the tickets (like ordinary visitors) and claim they can learn from just looking around,” Azmin said.

Azmin also backed his argument by saying that it was no coincidence that Khir had made both the Disneyland trips in December during the school holidays.

Khairiyah who was also part of the delegation however defended her boss’ action and said that the visit was significant in realising PNSB’s ambitions of developing a theme park at Bagan Lalang.

“We were there to study the concept and had to do a comparative study (with other Disneylands from other countries),” she said, and added that the development of the theme park was already underway and that it will be build on a 20 to 21-acre piece of land in Bagan Lalang

At this point, Teng backing Azmin said it was ridiculous for Khairiyah to imply that by merely visiting Disneyland, it was possible for PNSB to learn the technical aspects of developing and operating a theme park.

“You spend a lot of the people’s money, about RM1.8 million for trips to Disneyland in Paris, Orlando, Tokyo just to build a theme park on a 20-acre piece of land? Be honest, this idea is a failure,” said Teng.

Khir had brought his wife and family throughout all the trips alongside Khairiyah on her capacity as the CEO of PNSB. She also admitted to bringing her own children on the trips but claimed that their expenses were paid by herself.

Last week, Khairiyah also revealed that she had close ties with Khir's wife Zaharah.

She added that there was no PNSB committee to scrutinise any "request" for funds or how the money was used. According to her, all requests were approved by the PNSB board collectively.

Police report may be lodged against Khir’s wife

The inquiry is being held to investigate the source and legitimacy of the more than RM1 million in sponsorship received by the Wives of Selangor State Assemblymen and MPs' Charity and Welfare Organisation (Balkis) from state-owned and private companies.

Zaharah was Balkis chairperson during Khir's tenure as menteri besar.

Later in a press conference, Teng (photo, right) said that various apparent discrepancies have been discovered during the hearing and that the committee will be holding a meeting soon to discuss further action.

“Besides the two witnesses who had refused to attend the hearing, I am satisfied with the cooperation showed by other witnesses. We will scrutinise the documents we have received and will prepare a report before the next sitting of the state assembly,” he said.

When asked about Khir’s fate, Teng said it was most likely the former menteri besar will be referred to the state assembly’s privilege committee though he did not want to comment on what the decision of the committee would be.

As for Zaharah, Teng said Khir's wife had committed an offence under the Contempt of House Act 2008 by not attending the hearing.

“As she is not a state representative, the possible action for the committee to take is to lodge a police report and leave it to the attorney-general to decide on whether to prosecute her or not,” he said, adding that he will have to consult with the committee first before deciding on this.

The seven-member inquiry was boycotted by two BN representatives.

Khir has refused to comment on the matter saying that he would leave it to his lawyer to handle the matter.

The public hearing, the first-ever inquiry conducted by a state legislative assembly in the country, began on March 23 - Malaysiakini.