The funds and electronics handed out by caretaker Selangor menteri besar Mohamed Azmin Ali to his constituents were not done in an ad hoc manner in view of the upcoming general elections.
In a statement today, his office said that all recipients of the handouts had applied for aid to Azmin's various offices before the dissolution of Parliament on April 7.
"The allegation of 'goodies' in the headline is thus misleading, if not defamatory.
"Constituency disbursements are a regular part of a public representative's duties to their constituents, and Azmin reports such events openly on his social media accounts.
"His last such event was on Dec 16, 2017," said Yin Shao Loong, the strategic communications director of the menteri besar's office.
On Saturday, Malaysiakini had reported that Azmin handed funds for the maintenance of low- or medium-cost flats, and school cash aid for children of his Gombak and Bukit Antarabangsa constituents.
Several laptops were also presented to students, while tablet computers were given to several village chiefs.
Details of the handouts and its value were published on official lists distributed to participants at two events, which Malaysiakini sighted and totalled up.
According to Azmin's office, the RM2.24 million total value of the handouts reported by Malaysiakini was inaccurate, as the actual total amount was only RM967,150.
This was financed through Azmin's annual allocation by the state government and various official state government programmes.
When contacted, Yin said that there were errors in the lists sighted by Malaysiakini. He said the list was not meant for distribution to the press and that Malaysiakini did not make efforts to seek official clarification.
Below is the menteri besar's office's statement in full.
We note with great dismay a misleading report published by online portal Malaysiakini on 14 April 2018 at 11:29pm. The report entitled, "Cash, laptops, iPads - Azmin doles out over RM2m worth goodies", makes several serious errors and dubious assumptions, which is now our responsibility to correct since they affect the Azmin's good name.
The report covered the activities on April 14, 2018, of Azmin in disbursing grants and state aid in the state constituency of Bukit Antarabangsa and the Parliamentary constituency of Gombak, for which he was the elected representative for the 13th Parliament of Malaysia.
No cash given out, only cheques; No iPads, Only Samsungs
To start with, the very first word in the article's title is false. No cash was disbursed, in the programme. Only cheques were handed over as is proper for official programmes which have been processed through the proper channels.
To suggest that "cash" was handed out gives the impression that what occurred was an event of a very base political calibre, which is far from the truth.
Furthermore, iPads were not disbursed to qualified recipients. Rather, it was the more affordable Samsung tablet.
The truth and official documents can be verified with the constituency office, the Gombak District Office and the State Economic Planning Office, all of which are subject to audit.
Total given out less than half of what was reported
Second, the report stated that out of the four events on April 14, "two events in Ukay Perdana and Kampung Kerdas, the amount of aid distributed totalled over RM2.24 million."
This is a gross and inaccurate overstatement of the amount of aid disbursed. In actual fact, the total value of aid disbursed for all four events only amounted to RM967,150, made up of constituency allocations and official state programmes.
The figure from Malaysiakini is 2.3 times the true figure.
It is regrettable that no attempt was made to contact the constituency officer to verify that the number put to print was accurate and truthful.
The true figure comprised a few hundred thousand ringgit from Azmin's constituency allocations. A substantial portion of the aid went towards applications to uplift public facilities. The remainder comprised aid for the needy and educational support.
To clarify, the residents' associations of nine low- and medium-cost flats had applied for building remediation works under the Smart Life and Ceria programmes by the Selangor state.
Selangor's Budget 2018, passed in November 2017, provided for the state government as a caring government to bear 100 percent of the cost of repainting and lift repair works for qualifying low- and medium-cost flats.
All spending proper and above board
Third, all applications for this aid were made prior to the dissolution of Parliament and do not represent ad hoc spending specially tailored for the election season. The allegation of "goodies" in the headline is thus misleading, if not defamatory.
Constituency disbursements are a regular part of a public representative's duties to their constituents and Azmin reports such events openly on his social media accounts. His last such event was on Dec 16, 2017.
We have tremendous respect for the role of an independent media as the fourth estate to exercise scrutiny on power in modern democracies. However, that honourable role must be upheld with a code of conduct that is observed to a high standard. Facts must be verified and sources must be consulted so that the public gets the truth.
For the reasons stated above, we demand a correction of the article and an acknowledgement of the error made since there has been damage to Azmin's good name.
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
Yin Shao Loong
Strategic communications director, Selangor Menteri Besar's Office