Petty cash in the millions
Millions were pouring into the HRDF. And for some high-ranking personnel, their exorbitant salaries and bonuses weren’t enough. Greed got the better of them and they treated the fund as their personal bank, helping themselves to some RM100mil, maybe more
KUALA LUMPUR: High-ranking staff of the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) misappropriated about RM100mil or about a third of the RM300mil in the fund.
While certain management staff members were overpaid with high salaries and bonuses, some training providers and a number of HRDF management personnel misused the fund in the name of training to purchase commercial properties.
Large sums of money were diverted without the authorisation of the HRDF board and there was collusion between managerial staff and external parties to award contracts.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran revealed these wrongdoings at a townhall meeting with representatives of employer associations and HRDF-registered employers yesterday.
He said that some members of the HRDF board of directors also did not declare their vested interests to the board.
“There have been wrongdoings, such as abuse of duties, criminal breach of trust and exceeding procedure without reporting to the board.
“(They were) running (the HRDF) as though it was their own company,” he said.
Kulasegaran, who initiated a five-member independent Governance Oversight Committee (GOC) to review and probe the allegations, said that there were elements of fraud in the misuse of the fund in the name of training.
The HRDF is an agency under the Human Resources Ministry that manages a fund for human resource training and development that were contributed by employers.
Regarding the alleged misappropriation of the fund, Kulasegaran said that the HRDF board was only informed after the money was spent.
“Out of RM300mil, nearly RM100mil has been spent,” he said, adding that some department officers, in other instances, also exceeded their authority and approved projects beyond their authorised limit.
When asked, Kulasegaran said that some staff allegedly involved in the wrongdoings are still holding positions in the agency, while some had left.
“After the Pakatan Harapan government took over, three directors have since resigned.
“If they have done anything wrong, action will be taken against them. We will let the process take place. It is not fair at this juncture to make allegations,” he said, adding that two police reports have been lodged based on the GOC report.
Not denying that more former and current HRDF staff are expected to be called up for questioning, Kulasegaran said that parties at fault would be pursued through civil and criminal proceedings.
“After this, I hope the HRDF management will make the agency transparent and accountable to the public,” he said.
Meanwhile, a source that has left the HRDF organisation told The Star that in the week before the townhall, three senior figures within the organisation were subject to domestic inquiries and released from the company.
Another three senior members were on contract and when their contracts expired recently they were not renewed.
A key figure implicated in the scandal resigned soon after GE14.
“Some senior figures have survived, but there is a definite cleanup exercise under way,” said the source.
In some cases, those due to leave
found themselves locked out of their offices and escorted off the premises by security when they arrived for work.
The sources said finance personnel and those in special projects who released funds without going through the proper channels, and those who invested money without any accountability are believed to be among those implicated.
“A lack of accountability on the 30% given by companies to the HRDF led to certain figures treating it like a personal piggy bank,” said the source.
He said the culprits are now looking at making deals by providing evidence against the leadership in return for an easy way out.”
“The rot runs deep, and the money runs into billions,” he said. “That’s why there was no choice but to stop the 30% policy and fix the system before restarting it.”
The source said that a key figure implicated in the wrongdoings used tactics such as poor appraisals and internal audits to try to force out those who spoke out against dubious practices.
Some of the questionable property transactions may have involved property in Bangsar South, said the source.