GST refunds not missing: Ex-official

Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah said the money "was put into the consolidated funds".
Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah said the money "was put into the consolidated funds".

Former Treasury head files anti-graft report after allegations of missing $6b in tax refunds

PUTRAJAYA • Malaysia's former Treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah yesterday lodged a report with the anti-graft authorities on allegations that RM18 billion (S$6 billion) in tax refunds were missing from the government coffers.

Tan Sri Irwan had on Thursday denied those claims by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who said in Parliament on Wednesday that the sum, meant for goods and services tax (GST) refunds, had gone missing under Dr Irwan's watch.

Dr Irwan said he made the report so that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) could investigate the matter, which he claimed was "baseless", The Star reported. Mr Lim "claims the money is missing", he told a reporter. "It is not. It was put into the consolidated funds," he said.

Welcoming an investigation into the matter, Dr Irwan explained on Thursday that the Customs Department requirements for GST refunds are channelled to a trust account every month.

He said the amount allocated is decided at the monthly Federal Government Cashflow Management meeting, which is chaired by the Treasury secretary-general and also attended by the director-general of Customs Department, and officials from the Inland Revenue Board, the Finance Ministry and the central bank.

"There are no missing funds. The Treasury allocates to the GST trust account for refunds based on the requirement of the Customs Department and financial position of the government. The information is available in the Accountant-General's Department and Fiscal Division of the Ministry of Finance," Dr Irwan said, according to Bernama.

He was responding to allegations made by Mr Lim in Parliament on Wednesday that about RM18 billion was missing from the RM19.4 billion meant for GST refunds from April 2015 to May 31, 2018.

The Customs Department, however, said yesterday that it had requested RM82.9 billion from the previous Barisan Nasional government for the GST refunds, but had only received RM63.5 billion through the consumption tax's Trust Fund, the Malay Mail online website reported.

"As at May 31, 2018, the Trust Fund still needed and was short to pay the GST refunds arreared amounting to RM19.4 billion," Customs director-general Subramaniam Tholasy said.

Dr Irwan, who was removed from office days after the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition won the May 9 election, said he was prepared to extend his cooperation on the matter.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Najib Razak yesterday accused the ruling PH government of having spent money in the consolidated fund that was meant for the GST refunds. He said it had spent the money after losing revenue when it zero-rated the GST for three months ahead of implementing its proposed sales and services tax, reported Free Malaysia Today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'GST refunds not missing: Ex-official'. Print Edition | Subscribe