Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak has claimed that the Pakatan Harapan government could have spent the RM18 billion in goods and services tax (GST) refunds that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng is now accusing the previous administration of robbing.
Like any other tax or revenue collections, Najib said, all GST collections are paid directly into the government's consolidated revenue account.
He said from there, the funds are then paid into the GST refunds trust account on a monthly basis to meet the refund payments required on an on-going basis.
“This is allowed by law and conforms to the GST Act 2014, which was debated in Parliament where Harapan leaders were present, including our current finance minister, so he should know.
“Therefore, no money was 'robbed' as the GST collections were in the consolidated revenue account,” he added in a statement this afternoon.
Najib, who was also a former finance minister, said under the GST system, businesses could claim back their input GST as a refund when they make a sale, collect GST from the final customer and pay the GST collected to the government.
“What is likely to have happened is that when the Harapan government zero-rated the GST on June 1, 2018, businesses were entitled to claim back all their input GST immediately and there was a rush of applications to claim back, whether or not they (the businesses) made a sale.
“These claims on the government must be a very high amount that happened suddenly,” he added.
Najib said that since the Harapan government lost three months of revenue when the GST was zero-rated and the sales and services tax (SST) was not in place, the government could have spent the money in the consolidated accounts that were meant to be transferred to the GST refunds trust account on their monthly operating expenses.
“As a consequence, the Harapan government now finds it hard to pay for all these GST refunds claims and needs someone to blame.
“Naturally, the blame now goes to the previous BN government, despite this being Harapan's mistake,” he added.
'List of excuses'
Najib further declared that the Harapan government would probably add the “BN robbed RM18 billion” allegation to their “self-created RM1 trillion national debt”.
This, he added, was part of the list of excuses for the coalition being unable to deliver the promises in its manifesto, to cut or abolish aid to the people or not to refund the GST due to the businesses.
“As police and the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) reports have been made and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said they will hold an inquiry into this RM18 billion robbery claim, I will provide my full cooperation as the former finance minister so that the truth can come out.
“If the allegation is found to be untrue, then Lim has misled the Parliament when he made such a serious allegation.
“When this happens, I do hope the Parliament speaker will no longer protect Lim as the Parliament is not the place to make such baseless and serious politically motivated accusation,” Najib added.
During his winding-up debate on the Sales Tax Bill 2018 in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday, Lim revealed that a Customs Department audit had found a shortfall in GST refunds amounting close to RM18 billion.
Lim alleged that the amount had been “misused” by the previous government to cover up a deficit, finance development projects and “to do as they wished”.
However, he declined to link the misuse to Najib, but instead said that former Treasury secretary-general Irwan Serigar Abdullah would have been “in the know”.