Friday, December 23, 2005

Fine Arts, Gross Neglect

Corporate human behaviour have not changed even though times have. In the upper echelon of bureaucracy or commerce, top brass continue to spend public or shareholders' money as if it's their own. Except of course that had it been their own money, they might not have been so profligate in spending it.

The chairman of an airline has made scandalous news for his purchase of fine modern arts to sums of millions, and that wasn't just it - he renovated his office on the 34th floor of the airline building at a staggering cost equivalent to several houses. It's all on the expenditure account of an airline that has already lost nearly 700 million ringgit in just half a year. The airline is financially very sick and now requires a rescue package of RM 3 billion. Yet, in spite of his company's dire financial straits, the chairman didn't see the need for fiscal prudence. This is Malaysian leadership by example?

But then, for him what's there to worry - it's not his money. Apparently, from senatorial queries (left unanswered by the managing director) the chairman hopped on the airline flights to London on weekly frequencies too - I wouldn't be at all surprised if those had been first class seats on shareholders' expense. It would be unlike that he emulated Bill Gates, world's richest bloke with several billions (of American greenbacks) who travels only by business class.

Mind you, this chairman is not unique in his love for delightful stuff paid for from public or shareholders' assets. Malaysia has many such people who don't give a thought to the fact they are spending other people's money, not on essentials but for their personal preferred lifestyle. And with that disattached non-ownership sense of freedom, they spend it well with an unaccountable flourish.

The crime is not his because he is only human, and really, is there anything in the company's policy that says he couldn't purchase paintings or renovate his office? A lack of fiscal prudence, definitely, but illegality, unlikely. There is a Western saying that if you leave little Johnny alone with the cookie jar, the you must expect little Johnny to have a great time digging deep into it.

The gross neglect lies with those who had appointed such a person and then not monitor him. This has especially shocking, considering the airline is already in deep financial problems. I am glad he's been asked to resign, though will he go willingly? Does the government as the majority shareholder have the gumption to sack him if he resists?

But as mentioned, he is not the only little Johnny. When the government appoints their favoured sons or daughters to such positions, there has to be proper check and balance to prevent imprudent use of corporate assets.

The even greater disappointment has been the pathetic excuse that the paintings were bought to enhance the stature of his office. What *stature* could possibly be in existence when the company is already in such a financial tailspin? That reason or explanation has been as inane as making police wear badges saying that they won't be corrupt, in a fantasised hope they won't be.

(1) Style Mahu, Kalah Selalu!
(2) Style Mahu, Kalah Selalu! (2)

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