Audit finds minister’s family made mess of national cattle farming project
UPDATED @ 06:00:04 PM 25-10-2011
By Debra Chong
October 25, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — A RM73.64 million government project — linked to minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family — to create Malaysia’s “Beef Valley” has turned into a mess, a federal audit report said.
The Auditor-General’s Report, released yesterday, showed that the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) set up in 2008 in Gemas, Negri Sembilan failed to hit its target of breeding 8,000 cattle last year.
Under the 9th Malaysia Plan, the centre is expected to produce 60,000 cattle by 2015.
“An audit check found production in 2010 was only at 3,289 heads of cattle or 41.1 per cent,” the report said.
The audit was conducted between January and March this year.
Among the reasons cited were the NFC corporation’s poor management including its failure to train 130 farmers for the project, the 5,000-acre farmland in Gemas being overgrown with thorny acacia shrubs, and poor use and maintenance of its facilities.
Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang also said the ministry’s initial main operator, Lamberts Agricultural Trade (M) Sdn Bhd, had backed out of the project, a move that contributed to the dismal performance.
The NFC is a joint-venture between Negri Sembilan and federal government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (MoA) to commercially produce more beef domestically and cut down import of the meat.
Previous media reports showed the MoA picked a company called Agroscience Industries Sdn Bhd, owned by Shahrizat’s husband, Datuk Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail, to spearhead the project, under a company called National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp).
Mohamad Salleh is also NFCorp’s executive chairman.
Shahrizat’s (picture) three children, Izran, Izmir and Izzana, also play key roles in the NFCorp, the Malay Mail reported on June 24 this year. Izran is CEO while his brother and sister are executive directors.
The family-controlled beef project is marketed under the label “Gemas Gold” and can be found on the menus of several family-owned restaurants in the Klang Valley.
The audit report also found NFCorp did not finalise the standard operating procedure or implementation agreement in 2010.
It noted NFCorp claimed it could not do so because the government has yet to build an abattoir capable of slaughtering 350 heads of cattle a day.
The audit report said the Treasury completed a study on the slaughterhouse on April 5 this year to be presented to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The audit report noted that two factories related to the project have yet to be built, namely the livestock feed factory that was part of the pilot project under the entrepreneur development programme, and a bio-gas factory to process waste from the abattoir and the feedlot into fuel for the farm.
The report stressed infrastructure upkeep as the most important factor for the project’s success and recommended the MoA devise a “Blue Ocean” strategy to boost its cattle breeding production to meet the original 60,000 target by 2015.