Yapeim in the spotlight – who, what and why

17 Nov 2015

The Malaysian Islamic Economic Development Foundation (Yapeim) was created in 1976 under the Trustees (Incorporation Act) 1952 and is similar to a charity trust fund.

However, Yapeim is not an ordinary charity trust fund as it is supported by the government with the prime minister as its patron, who delegates a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, normally in charge of Islamic affairs, to oversee the organisation.

Yapeim is managed by its president, deputy president and a board of trustees whose members are appointed by the minister.

It participates in various economic activities including running supermarkets, gold trading and in real estate with part of the profits used to fund welfare programmes.

Why is Yapeim in the middle of a controversy now?

Yapeim group chief executive officer Abibullah Samsudin said the organisation has been successful in its economic activities and it has generated enough income for its own operations without the need to rely on government grants.

National Oversight and Whistleblower (NOW) director Akmal Nasir (photo), however, has alleged misappropriation in Yapeim but if it is not being directly funded by the government, why is it a public issue?

The reason is simply because as a government-backed charity organisation, it gets a lot of goodwill assistance including from members of the public who participate in Yapeim’s salary deduction scheme.

Money the public contributes to Yapeim is meant for various programmes the organisation is running, such as for Muslim welfare and economic empowerment.

So the idea that funds given to Yapeim may not have been used for their intended purposes are not sitting well with contributors and backers.

Yapeim accused Akmal of stealing the foundation’s documents and ‘twisting’ them.

How has Yapeim responded to the scandal?

Allegation No 1: Yapeim’s deputy president Zaleha Binti Hussin’s husband and son are alleged to have been appointed to the foundation and collectively, the family earns RM81,700 in salary a month from the foundation.

Response: Yapeim group chief executive director Abibullah Samsudin says this: “With regards to the appointment of the deputy president’s family members to Yapeim, the appointments were made according to legitimate processes and procedures.

“There are no rules which prevent the appointment of family members to Yapeim,” he added.

Abibullah said Zaleha’s son Wan Johan Wan Ismail has a BSc in planning, construction and housing and a master’s degree in project management from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

He added that Zaleha’s husband Ismail Ismail Mohd Nasib has a bachelor’s degree in counselling from the University of Western Michigan, a bachelor’s degree in history from Universiti Malaya and a post-graduate diploma from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“They were appointed to Yapeim’s subsidiary based on their qualifications and the company’s needs.

“They have contributed to Yapeim’s business development,” he said in a lengthly statement published on pro-government portal myKMU.net.

He added that even though Yapeim’s business activities are similar to government-linked companies like Tabung Haji and Felda, its president, deputy president and board of trustees do not enjoy bonuses, dividends or other corporate perks.

Allegation No 2: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Jamil Khir Baharom went golfing and shopping in the US using funds from Yapeim’s subsidiary Yayasan Pembangunan Anak Yatim/Miskin (Pemangkin), totalling more than RM400,000, which were meant for orphans.

Response: Jamil Khir insists that his trip to the US from May 21 to 29 in 2014 was on official business.

He said the functions he attended were organised by a foundation under his purview in cooperation with the Malaysian embassy and Education Malaysia (EM), a Malaysian government agency, in Chicago.

Jamil said incidentally, EM had organised a round of golf for the minister, ambassador and embassy staff.

Abibullah said the programme it organised overseas was meant to reach out to Malaysian students abroad and to give them a chance to engage in dialogue with Jamil on Islamic matters.

“Throughout the dialogue and interaction, they were given explanations about national issues, Islamic matters, terrorism issues, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues and others.

“Yapeim denies accusations that the minister attended the programmes organised by Yapeim overseas for leisure.

“The minister was not only invited to officiate and participate in the programmes with the students but also represented Yapeim in discussions with the Malasian embassy and EM which are also involved in taking care of the welfare of Malaysian students abroad,” he said.

Allegation No 3: RM290,000 of Yapeim’s funds was used for fund a marriage course in Paris with NOW questioning whether Jamil was also present.

Response: Nik Mohammad Izzul Azfar Nik Razali, the deputy programmes director for the course organised in 2014, said the event was organised by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) in cooperation with Yapeim, the Malaysian Students’ Association in France (Masafrance) and other agencies.

“To ensure the programme went smoothly, various facilities were provided for Malaysian students attend from nearby countries such as the UK, Poland, Russia, Ireland and also within France. This included transportation, lodging and food.

“According to Jakim, Yapeim did not misuse funds as all expenses for the programme were in accordance to the set procedures and rules,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He said the event was organised due to the high demand for such courses from Malaysian students overseas and following this, 10 participants tied the knot a few months after the event.

Nik Mohammad Izzul, who is also Masafrance vice-president, said the event had benefited the students and met its objective.

“(But) perhaps in terms of expenditure, this needs to be reexamined even though the spending was according to procedure.

“Allow the responsible authorities to investigate and decide,” he said.

Allegation No 4: RM223,000 of Yapeim’s funds were used for a function that has no record of ever having taken place, raising suspicion if it was used for election campaigning as the date coincided with the Rompin by-election.

Response: Yapeim has not specifically addressed this claim but stressed that all of its activities and decisions are made based on policies approved by the board of trustees.

“The board of trustees comprises 12 members who include accountants, lawyers, former mufti, university rectors, former deputy vice-chancellors, senior government officers and others.

“Yapeim is also supervised by a syariah oversight committee that oversees all of Yapeim’s operations,” said its chief executive Abibullah Samsudin.

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