Malaysiakini reported yesterday that "the cabinet has ordered the chief secretary to investigate whether the transport ministry had wrongly issued a letter of support to a private developer to enable the latter to raise funds for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ)" in Pulau Indah, a project which was undertaken by the Klang Port Authority (KPA).
Many of my ex colleagues and I, former employees of the KPA have served for many years at low salaries so that the port can accumulate healthy reserves of about RM500 milion about ten years ago. We are indeed most distressed to learn that the port is now hugely in debt to the tune of almost RM 5 billion !
PKFZ Authority HQ
The PKFZ was started some time ago and was supposed to draw investments by the billions to make Port Klang the biggest free trade zone in the region. The Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) in Dubai was roped in to provide management expertise but alarm bells began to ring early this year when its rep Noel Gulliver left and there was no replacement. Despite vague assurances by the port that it was just temporary, the JAFZA officially pulled out last week leaving the port up the creek without a paddle.
Questions are now being raised on the billions of ringgit in cost over-run and dubious land deals. A lot of money has already changed hands but the last time I visited PKFZ a few months ago, it looked like a ghost town. There was hardly any activity and even the approach roads were still in a mess.
Who approved the deals and who is going to be accountable for the massive cost over-run?
Will the Auditor General use his powers to conduct an audit and tell the rakyat how this cock-up was allowed to happen?
Now that the port is in huge debt and bordering on insolvency, is the scene set for another bail-out?
Why was the port authority involved in such a mega project, when the government policy is to have more port operations to be privatised?
Was there any proper study done to find out whether free zones will still be relevant in the near future?
Questions, questions and in the meantime we wait with bated breath.