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TI-M: Explain why it's an 'official secret'

PETALING JAYA (Jan 18, 2007): Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) said the government should explain why the government's water concession agreement with Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), and the auditor-general's report on its non-revenue water (NRW) reduction are classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

In a press statement today, its president Tan Sri Dr Ramon V. Navaratnam said TI-M was concerned with Energy, Water and Communication Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik's statement yesterday that the two documents were classified under the OSA and could not be made public except with the cabinet's approval.

He said the classification of such information as "official secret" went against the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance.

"These concessions pertain to issues that are of vital public interests with direct impact on public funds and taxpayers' and consumers' interests," he said.

"TI-M calls upon the government to explain why such information is considered official secret and the justifications that support such a decision."

Lim made his remarks when commenting on the Coalition Against Privatisation of Water's (CAWP) decision to apply for a court order to make public the concession agreement and audit report.

The coalition filed for judicial review at the High Court (Appellate and Special Powers Division) on Tuesday (Jan 16, 2007), nearly three months after the ministry announced a 15% increase in water tariff for Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Syabas was allowed to raise the tariff after it said it has complied with the concession agreement's requirement to reduce NRW by 5%.

The coalition has asked for the audit report on the NRW reduction to be made public.

Ramon said in the interests of transparency, good governance and accountability, the government should urgently review the matter and consider releasing the documents for public scrutiny and evaluation.

"The government must be committed to promote transparency and accountability in our public procurement system and this includes privatisation and concessionaire agreements. The commitment must be practised across the board, without exception," he added. sun2surf

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