GEORGE TOWN: Gerakan today urged the state government to come clean on how much it has spent on the Asia Comic Cultural Museum since 2016 after it was revealed that more than RM400,000 was allocated to pay rent for the space it occupies at the ICT Mall in Komtar.
Penang Gerakan vice-chairman H’ng Khoon Leng said going by the state assembly figures, the state would have easily spent close to RM2 million in rental alone since its inception of the museum in March 2016.
“Imagine, this is just rent. What about the other costs? While it could be operated by a private company, taxpayers money has gone in, so we have the right to know,” H’ng said at a press conference today.
“We are of the opinion that this money could be used for tourism frontliners, who have been suffering from a drop in business due to the movement control order.”
Recently, it was revealed that the state had allocated RM 413,940 to rent 13,000 sq ft of space at the ICT Mall for the comic museum.
A state assembly reply dated Oct 12 showed that the money came from federal tourism taxes collected in 2018 and 2019, amounting to RM20.1 million.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had previously said the museum’s rental would be paid until the end of December, as part of an agreement signed in 2016.
He also denied the museum was owned by the state government but said the funding was given so as to support local tourism.
But H’ng said a Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) search did not yield any results, prompting questions on the ownership of the museum and its legal status.
He said it was not reasonable for the state to fund the museum when other more deserving tourism products could have benefitted from it.
“For the sake of transparency and integrity, the CM should reveal all signed agreements with the museum,” he said.
He said Gerakan lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday to look into the museum.
Last year, former prime minister Najib Razak had asked if the museum was part of the state government-linked Penang Youth Development Corporation (PYDC), after spotting a “fully-owned by PYDC” sign next to the museum’s signage.
Penang Front Party’s youth chief, Jasper Ooi, also said funding for the museum should be halted if it was a private entity.
He said the funds could be used to help other SMEs in the tourism industry.
The museum’s curator, Hew Kuan Yau, said a statement would released later. – FMT