Of all people, why Khalid as Prasarana chief?

P Gunasegaram

Modified 8 Sep 2017, 12:43 am

QUESTION TIME | Khalid Abu Bakar’s highly questionable stint as inspector-general of police has been followed by a highly questionable appointment, which can only be a reward of sorts for service rendered to the government of the day.

Khalid’s appointment as chairperson of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, a government-owned company engaged in Malaysia’s complex transport operations including in many parts of Kuala Lumpur’s mass rapid transit system, by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak defies logic and plain common sense.

But it follows the long tradition in Malaysia of appointing government loyalists to key positions with no thought of whether they are suited or not for the position and can do their jobs well, given their background, qualifications and experience.

Before we go on to list some of Najib’s dubious recent appointments, let’s look at why Khalid is most unsuited for the position of Prasarana chairperson. First some words on Prasarana.

This is the company tasked with taking over billions of ringgit of assets relating to Kuala Lumpur’s transport infrastructure as well as other similar projects across the country. It has billions of ringgit in assets, billions in borrowings and billions in losses. It does not disclose its financial results.

Despite the mess Prasarana is already mired in, it is eyeing a RM55 billion rail project in Saudi Arabia, according to press reports, and also other overseas projects.

Khalid, by most accounts, did not have a distinguished career in the police force. He is not particularly noted for anything great that has been done. You can read his profile, filled with unsubstantiated praise, at the police website here. His qualifications are listed as OSC/MCE/SPM and LLB Honours from Universiti Islam Antarabangsa.

He was a career police officer and as far as is known has worked nowhere else. He does not have any corporate experience whatsoever and does not have the background, qualification and understanding necessary to be the chairperson of a company which has billions in assets, borrowings and losses.

The chairperson of a company such as Prasarana carries with it enormous responsibilities given the scale of its operations, which is equivalent to any large public-listed company. Here are key responsibilities of the chairperson drawn from the Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance:

  • providing leadership for the board so that the board can perform its responsibilities effectively; setting the board agenda and ensuring that board members receive complete and accurate information in a timely manner;
  • leading board meetings and discussions;
  • encouraging active participation and allowing dissenting views to be freely expressed; managing the interface between board and management;
  • ensuring appropriate steps are taken to provide effective communication with stakeholders and that their views are communicated to the board as a whole;
  • leading the board in establishing and monitoring good corporate governance practices in the company;
  • and leading the board in its collective oversight of management, while the CEO focuses on the business and day-to-day management of the company.

How can any IGP, let alone Khalid, going to live up to those demands. If he fails, the one to blame is the person who put him up there in the first place...

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