THE previous Barisan Nasional government used money due to taxpayers for goods and services tax (GST) refunds to pay for other expenses because of a shortfall in its income, a parliamentary select committee has found.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that BN overestimated its income and dipped into the GST refunds account, sources told The Malaysian Insight.

The money was not “stolen” or “robbed” as claimed by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng when he revealed the “missing” funds in the Dewan Rakyat in August last year.

“The Customs Department was expected to contribute a certain amount to the Treasury but when it was insufficient, the previous government used the refunds for its own expenditure,” a parliament source told The Malaysian Insight.

“Taxpayers were literally forced to lend the money to the government.”   

PAC was tasked with looking into the case of the “missing” RM18 billion in GST refunds after Lim revealed that only RM1.486 billion remained in an account dedicated to GST refunds.

The amount was insufficient to cover the RM19.4 billion owed to taxpayers.

Of the amount, RM9.2 billion was for refunds owing for 2018, RM6.8 billion (2017), RM2.8 billion (2016) and RM600 million (2015). GST began on April 1, 2014.

PAC chairman Dr Noraini Ahmad yesterday said the committee’s report on the GST refunds would be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat next Tuesday and made available to the public on the Parliament website.

As a result of the missing GST refunds, the new government included a one-off special dividend of RM30 billion from Petronas to facilitate the tax refunds in Budget 2019.

Lim’s revelations prompted PAC to start a probe into where the money had gone.

PAC originally planned to table its report last November and then again in the last sitting but after a change of chairman from Ronald Kiandee to Noraini, it was announced that the report will be tabled in the current sitting.

“PAC also had to recall some of the people interviewed last year due to the change in members,” another source said.

“Another reason for the delay was due to the recommendations. One or two members could not agree on that and wanted to insert something about how the government handles future shortfalls.

“But that was out of PAC’s term of reference. The report should be finalised tomorrow,” said the source.

In the course of the investigations, PAC interviewed Lim, former auditor-general Madinah Mohamad and director-general of Customs Subromaniam Tholasy.

Lim’s statement in the Dewan Rakyat last August, where he used the word “merompak” (robbed) to accuse BN of being responsible for the missing funds, led to Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin lodging a police report over the finance minister’s claim.

Police also recorded Lim’s statement.