Friday, April 11, 2014

Public funds should not be misused

Friday, April 11, 2014 - Malay Mail
Too much money was wasted on the 15th Malaysia Games in Kuantan. — Picture by Bernama


PUBLIC funding has been taken for granted by the sports fraternity for far too long and there are always unscrupulous people waiting to make a quick buck.
We often hear of overspending, ‘shady deals’, unaccounted or missing funds, and athletes complaining about being short-changed from district right up to Olympic levels.
The latest is the Auditor-General’s Report for Pahang which says there are glaring differences in the prices of equipment acquired for the 15th Malaysia Games (Sukma).
The report also says up to 1,211 assets worth RM93,150 have gone missing due to theft, accidents, natural disaster, depreciation, fraud and the negligence.
It notes that up to 24 items bought for RM120,688 had not been used as of the day of auditing. With the 17th Malaysia Games just round the corner, it won’t be surprising if similar reports emerge.
Perlis Menteri Besar Azlan Man has said some RM150 million has been spent on preparations for the Games, including upgrading existing facilities and constructing new venues.
Perlis will host the Games for the first time and while one of the aims is to see the host state acquire top sports facilities, more often than not, this is taken as an opportunity by individuals and companies to make profit.
Azlan has said the new sports facilities will not become white elephants as the state will set up a committee to ensure the venues are used and maintained.
It is indeed the hope that there is proper management after the Games and accountability tops the priority list.
Another sports event that attracts profit-seekers every year is football. The M-League to be exact.
The green light to sign foreign players is seen by many as a money-making venture while teams waste money on exorbitant fees for average or even injured players.
Just look at the number of foreign players expected to be replaced before the transfer window closes next week.
Now, the teams will have to settle previous contracts and sign on new players, but are they even batting an eye? After all, it is not their money, but that of sponsors, well-wishers and gate collections from fans.
The sad part is that all this comes at the expense of the national team whose top players do not get exposure to their own league because of the presence of the foreigners.
While the FA of Malaysia and the state FAs cite reasons like drawing the crowd to the stadiums and raising the standard of the game for bringing in foreign players, there are fans who think otherwise. Last week, I was in Kuala Terengganu to witness the match between T-Team and Pahang and the stadium was nearly full.
The next morning, on the way to the airport to catch my flight back to Kuala Lumpur, I started a conversation with the taxi driver, who had also watched the match. Obviously, Wan Amran Wan Sulong supported T-Team.
“It does not matter if the state team or T-Team play, I am there to support the team faithfully. Of course, when the state team play, the stadium is full,” he said.
“When foreign players were barred, we still had bumper crowds.
“While we are happy to see foreign players, we are sad our national team are suffering. We are sad that some of the top state players have to warm the bench because of the foreigners,”
Asked if his opinion was in the minority, he stressed the people of Terengganu would be proud to do well with their own players and that most of his friends felt the same way.
The time has come to listen to the grassroots about prudent spending and not allowing hard-earned taxpayers’ money to go into the pockets of profit-seekers.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports journalist
with more than three decades of experience
and is passionate about local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter handle: @tmariadass

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