Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today denied Sarawak chief minister's allegation that the federal government has not executed projects to repair dilapidated school buildings in the state.
In a statement, Lim said the Finance Ministry had expedited the process for the repair works and had authorised the Education Ministry to start preparations on Aug 5.
This was despite Putrajaya only receiving Sarawak's repayment of RM350 million of their debt on Aug 8.
"Referring to the statement by Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg's statement in the media on Aug 25, I would like to stress that projects to repair dilapidated schools in Sarawak have already been carried out since Aug 5.
"Thus, the statement by the chief minister where he alleged the Finance Ministry of saying that a committee has to be set up first (before repairs works can be done) is untrue and regretful, as four special committees at the federal government level for this project had been set up and working since March 19.
"His statement is very disappointing because it sidelines efforts by the federal government to expedite projects to repair the schools in Sarawak, where we had considered the requests and needs of the Sarawak state government," he said in a statement this afternoon.
Lim was responding to Abang Johari's claim that Putrajaya did not uphold their part of the deal to repair dilapidated schools in the state, despite Sarawak state government having repaid RM350 million out of RM1 billion of its debt to the federal government.
Lim accused of lying
Abang Johari reportedly made the remarks when he was answering a teacher's question during a townhall session in Lundu, Sarawak.
He had also reportedly called Lim "pembulak" (meaning liar in Sarawak Malay) during the session.
According to Lim, the ministry had issued a letter authorising the Education Ministry to carry out preliminary works for the school repairs on Aug 5, although they only received the repayment from Sarawak three days later.
He said the Finance Ministry had then on Aug 14 informed the Education Ministry of receipt of Sarawak's payment, and asked the latter to take the necessary action to ensure the first phase of the project can be carried out as soon as possible.
Sarawak Public Works Department, he added, had then identified seven schools that they could open the tender for repairs on Aug 26, while the tender for 30 others is expected to be opened by end of October.
"The Finance Ministry wants to explain that the Sarawak state government's proposal to use the debt repayment to repair the schools is actually an advance of funds by the federal government. This is because it involves funds that were loaned to the state government previously.
"If this were to be considered as repayment of loan from the federal government, it means that the RM1 billion fund or the RM350 million (repayment) is the federal government's money is being used to repair the dilapidated schools.
"The Sarawak state government must realise that the execution of this project must follow the procedures.
"The state government also should get the correct information before issuing any statement, and they should have refrained from making baseless accusation so that they won't confuse the rakyat.
"Their claim that the federal government is late in managing the repair works is not true at all, because it is the total opposite of reality," he said.