On 13 November, Friday, an anti-corruption group called 'National Oversight and Whistleblower' (NOW) alleged that 'Yayasan Pembangunan Ekonomi Islam Malaysia' (YAPEIM) funded Minister in the PM's Department Jamil Khir Baharom's US trip in 2014 using money from donations meant for orphans and poor children
Below, we take a look at the claims made in the exposé and what the Federal Minister has to say including whatever else that is there to know about it at the moment.
National Oversight and Whistleblower (NOW) Director Akmal Nasir has alleged the trip took place between 21 May and 29 May 2014 when Jamil Khir Baharom, the Minister in charge of Islamic Affairs, and his entourage visited the city of Washington DC, Minnesota and Iowa.
The Director of NOW told a press conference in KL that expenses for the visit were paid for by an institution under the purview of YAPEIM. Akmal said the Minister's wife was also part of the entourage.
According to NOW, the US trip was under the guise of an official charity programme organised by the state-linked charity agency. However, the Federal Minister, his wife and their entourage instead went on a shopping spree and played golf for most of the eight-day using money meant for an orphanage.
Citing invoices billed to Yayasan Pembangunan Anak Yatim/Miskin (PEMANGKIN) that it obtained, NOW's Director Akmal Nasir said the trip to Washington DC, Iowa and Minnesota from 21 May to 29 May 2014 involved golf and trips to shopping malls.
The trip costed RM410,978, Akmal claimed.
In copies of receipts of payments for the YAPEIM US programme, four days out of the schedule were spent on a "VVIP" trip to Leesburg Corner Premium Outlet, a factory outlet store that sells luxury goods at discounted prices.
Transportation fees to the outlet cost RM5,908.35, according to the receipt.
The Director of NOW said: "What is sad, is that these payments are made through PEMANGKIN for which the money was meant to help orphans and the poor. Although the trip's objective was to 'strengthen and empower YAPEIM's Kelab Santun, the trip had nothing to do with charity work."
The invoices Akmal obtained showed that RM274,493 was spent on the return tickets for the Minister and his wife. Other expenses spent on the Minister include RM1,658.96 for golf, RM1,565.98 for a dinner function and RM3,200.72 for souvenirs.
Accommodation for the Minister and his wife for three nights came to RM2,675.43.
Akmal said: "I'm certain this disclosure can reach beyond the imagination of the people, wondering how can an Islamic foundation under the Prime Minister's watch be abused for activities like golfing or shopping, and all."
He said NOW is demanding a thorough investigation into YAPEIM and other institutions under the charity foundation and that their spendings are checked and audited openly.
"The investigation should also track down the exact amount of losses due to leakages and misuse of power. The donations are for the orphans. Many people go on official trips outside the country but if the donations are used for leisure such as this, it has deviated from the objective and it is wrong." he said
While YAPEIM is a charity set up by the Federal Government in 1976 and placed under the purview of the Prime Minister, with special attention from Jamil Khir, according to Senator Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, the Federal Government has no direct involvement in the operations of YAPEIM or knowledge of the alleged mismanagement at the entity, The Malay Mail Online reported.
Also, this is NOW's fourth expose on YAPEIM.
Meanwhile, Jamil Khir Baharom has denied the claims made by NOW and is threatening to sue parties involved for defamation over the reports. He said National Oversight and Whistleblower (NOW) Director Akmal Nasir's claims that he used the funds to "play golf and go shopping" were slanderous and misleading.
He said the May 2014 visit was made in his official capacity, and it was spent attending events organised by agencies under his purview, namely YAPEIM, with the Malaysian embassy in the US and Education Malaysia Chicago.
Jamil Khir has threatened to sue Akmal if he doesn't reply within 24 hours.
The Federal Minister is also asking for a retraction and apology from news portal The Malaysian Insider over their report of the article.
"I demand Akmal Nasir, the director of NOW and The Malaysian Insider to retract all allegations and slander they have made and issue a public apology within 24 hours. Otherwise, I will initiate a defamation suit through my lawyers because I believe this has truly tarnished my dignity and credibility."
The Malaysian Insider, however, claims that unlike other news portals, it did not name the Federal Minister in its report on Akmal's press conference on 13 November. It did, however, tried to contact the Minister and YAPEIM for comments but to no avail, the online portal admitted.
Meanwhile, Malaysia recently scored a 'D' in the global defense corruption survey, indicating that the nation is at a high risk of corruption in its defense sector. Read in detail here: