KUALA LUMPUR — July 16, 2019: A day has passed after the Public Accounts Committee revealed its findings on the GST refunds said to have gone missing and the legality of the previous administration’s practice in handling the proceeds collected continues to be debated.
The convention which generated the buzz was on how all the GST revenue will first be transferred into the government’s coffers instead of the GST refund fund.
Those claiming that this was an unlawful act echoed the argument of Attorney-General Tommy Thomas that the revenue must only be channeled into the GST refund fund as per Section 54 of the GST Act.
However, critics of Thomas’s argument say that he was not telling the truth for not reading Section 54 in its entirety.
Lawyer Fatihah Jamhari said if Thomas had done so, he would have realised that two sub-sections within Section 54 essentially allowed the previous government’s move of transferring the money into the consolidated account.
“Sub-sections 2 and 5 maintain the discretionary power of the (finance) minister to determine whether to place the money under the Refund Fund and if so, at what rate and for how much,” points out Fatihah.
Below is what Section 54 and the sub-sections say:
Establishment of Fund for Goods and Services Tax Refund.
54 (1) A fund to be known as the Fund for Goods and Services Tax Refund (in this section referred to as “the Fund”) is established which shall be specified in and incorporated into the Second Schedule to the Financial Procedure Act 1957.
(2) There shall be paid into the Fund the amount of tax collected under this Act as may be authorised by the Minister.
(3) The moneys of the Fund shall be applied for the making of any refund under section 38 and Part VII.
(4) The Fund shall be administered by the Accountant General of Malaysia.
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (2) and the provisions of the Financial Procedure Act 1957, the Minister may authorise the payment into the Consolidated Revenue Account in the Federal Consolidated Fund of all or part of the moneys of the Fund.
Matters concerning the GST repayment money came under the spotlight in August last year when Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng claimed in parliament that RM19.4 billion was “robbed” by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
The claim was debunked by the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, when its chairperson Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad revealed that the money was actually transferred into the government’s consolidated revenue account.
In her statement, Noraini said the transfer of GST repayment money was made in stages so as to safeguard the country’s cash flow and ensure that the government would not operate in a deficit.
Despite the revelation, some Pakatan Harapan politicians continued to harp that although the money was not lost, its handling by the BN government can still be construed as a robbery, given how former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had transferred it without first informing the public.
While Fatihah contended that the seemingly-ceaseless furore over the already-resolved matter can be ultimately put to end if any aggrieved party takes the matter to the court, lawyer Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz, who agreed with her argument, said that doing so may be too petty.
He deemed it so because it has now been proven that the money was not stolen and that the current government should have no problems in giving GST refunds to claimants.
“Can we move on please? Stop politicising this matter, stop wasting the people’s time and stop trying to fool us, the people! How about the government being focused on other real issues instead of making things up just to vilify others,” said Khairul Azam.