PARLIAMENT | Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has revealed a whopping RM18 billion shortfall in GST refunds, which he claimed was misused by the previous administration.
The revelation follows his accusation that the previous administration had “robbed” the refunds.
When tabling the Goods and Services Tax (Repeal) Bill 2018 this evening, Lim said the total GST refund amounted to RM19.4 billion from the date of its implementation until May 31, 2018.
"However, there is only RM1.486 billion (left) in the refund fund (tabung bayar balik), which is a shortfall of about RM18 billion,” he said.
Lim, the Bagan MP, said this was discovered following an internal audit and inspection by the Customs Department.
"The huge outstanding (amount) was not only caused by non-compliance with the guidelines, but was also seen as a chance for the previous government to misappropriate the funds,” he added.
According to the Customs Department's figures, he added, the refund amount for 2017 was RM9.18 billion, 2016 (RM6.78 billion) and 2015 (RM610 million).
"The outstanding in repayment was caused by cashflow weakness due to weak fiscal discipline, wastages and incremental huge debts."
The finance minister accused the previous administration of faking the accounts and misappropriating GST refunds to cover-up the government's fiscal deficit.
"What the previous government did was tantamount to the falsification of accounts and misappropriation of GST refunds for other purposes to cover up the deficit and show a current account surplus.
"We regret that the arrears (in GST refund) happened because of the previous government's failure to deposit the GST collection in the special trust account meant for GST refunds, but instead robbed the trust account by putting the money into the Consolidated Fund as revenue to be spent," he said.
'Used as they wish'
Speaking to reporters later, Lim said the money, which belongs to taxpayers, was used by the previous administration to cover up the deficit, finance development projects, and basically, "do as they wish."
He added that this was tantamount to a crime or wrongdoing, but declined to elaborate on the type of wrongdoing.
"I don't want to prejudge, let the experts decide on that, but the point is, this money is not yours, it belongs to the rakyat... of course some said it could be criminal breach of trust, but I think we will leave it to the experts to decide."
The Finance Ministry was probing the matter to identify the inner circle of decision makers who transferred money out from the trust fund.
Lim also said that the previous treasurer-general, Irwan Serigar Abdullah, would have been "in the know" of the matter.
However, the finance minister declined to link the "misuse" to his predecessor Najib Abdul Razak just yet.
"I think let this be decided later, Najib is not facing charges (over this matter). I don't want to say anything, I don't think it's appropriate," he said, before urging for proper investigations to be carried out.