Why sack chairman, top executives at HRDF?

By Doreenn Leong

It is to be expected when a new government is formed, the heads of government agencies will roll or they will step down. This happened when Pakatan Harapan took over the administration of the country when it unexpectedly won the 14th general elections in 2018.

As such, when a new coalition under Perikatan Nasional wrestled control of the country recently, there were some prominent names who decided to call it quits.

Tan Sri Tommy Thomas resigned on Feb 28 as the attorney-general before his two-year contract was due in June while Latheefa Koya quit as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner on March 2. She was appointed to the post on June 1 last year, taking over from Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull who had decided to shorten his contract.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed on Feb 29 as the country’s eighth Prime Minister and sworn in on March 1 2020 after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s unexpected resignation on Feb 24.

But when Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan removed Datuk Noor Farida Mohd Ariffin from her position as the chairman of the Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF), this has raised some concerns.

According to a Malay Mail report on April 1, Noor Farida confirmed that five out of the 18 directors, including the CEO Elanjelian Venugopal, were also prematurely removed. Noor Farida was replaced with Datuk Nelson Renganathan, who is the chairman of Regent International School.

Is it really necessary to terminate contracts without giving any reasons? Will the government need to pay compensation to those dismissed?

If yes, why incur unnecessary costs at a time when resources should be directed at combating Covid-19? There are already many issues concerning job security of many employees which would need the urgent attention of the HR minister but he acted upon terminating people instead. Also, whose money is the minister spending in order to pay compensation?

Noor Farida, who was appointed as HRDF chairman on January 3, 2019, told Malay Mail that her contract was only due to end in January next year. But she received an official notification dated March 17 from Saravanan informing her that her appointment as HRDF chairman was cancelled, effective March 16.

Malay Mail noted that Noor Farida was already in the works to amend the Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Bhd 2001 (PSMB) Act, which will limit the minister’s powers, among other things.

DAP Bagan Dalam assemblyperson Satees Muniandy also raised questions on the removal of Noor Farida and other top executives.

He stressed that Noor Farida, a retired diplomat, had not been a political appointee.

Under Pakatan Harapan, Satees pointed out that the ministry’s Governance Oversight Committee had uncovered irregularities at HRDF during Barisan Nasional administration.

Satees questioned if Noor Faridah’s removal was an attempt to bury these scandals.

In June 2018, a month after Pakatan Harapan won the general election, HRDF former CEO CM Vignaesvaran tendered his resignation.

At that time, there were claims of alleged misappropriation of RM300 mil in funds at HRDF, which is under the purview of the Human Resources Ministry.

In November 2018, then Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran said “millions” in HRDF money had been used to purchase properties and pay salaries and bonuses of a select few.

In some cases, this was done without the knowledge of the fund’s directors.

He also claimed that several training providers and certain HRDF management personnel had misused the fund under the guise of training.

This is only the beginning as we expect to see more government heads being replaced. Let’s hope the new government does not make the mistake of getting rid of competent professionals and risk disrupting the governing of the agencies concerned.