Tuesday, January 26, 2021

With new name and image, Jasa’s ‘windfall’ budget to be halved

The RM85.5 million allocation, which came under criticism following its announcement on Nov 6, could be cut down by RM40 million, sources say.

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Putrajaya’s Special Affairs Department (Jasa) may see a considerable cut of its controversial RM85.5 million allocation, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

Sources have said that Jasa, which has been rebranded as the Department of Community Communications (J-KOM), could see its huge allocation reduced by about RM40 million.

When contacted, Zahidi Zainul Abidin, the deputy minister for communications and multimedia under which J-KOM is parked, did not rule out the possibility that the department could have its funding halved.

“I am made to understand that minister Saifuddin Abdullah will reduce by half the original allocation announced by the finance minister on Nov 6,” he told MalaysiaNow.

Zahidi added that the matter would be announced during the committee stage debate of the 2021 budget which begins on Monday.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, during his winding-up speech on the budget on Thursday, said there would be a reduction of funds for Jasa but did not state a specific amount.

Saifuddin recently announced that the department’s main task would be to implement strategic communication to promote the new normal in light of Covid-19, with the goal of empowering communities through an emphasis on digitalisation and knowledge.

Saifuddin also said that J-KOM would depart from its predecessor in that there would be no more political appointments.

The move is seen as part of efforts to shed the department’s origins as a government propaganda arm.

Jasa evolved from a unit formed under the information ministry in 1958 – just a year into independence – in the aftermath of the first general election in then-Malaya.

But over the last two decades, it became part of the Prime Minister’s Office with critics describing it as a propaganda tool with public funding for the then-ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.

The previous Pakatan Harapan government announced that it was dissolving Jasa five months after coming to power in 2018.

But earlier this month, MalaysiaNow revealed that Jasa had not been completely dismantled, and that it was officially “kept alive” through its warrant of establishment – the Treasury’s document to authorise changes to salary scale and positions in government departments – which remained active.

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