The Tourism Ministry has spent a whopping RM1,758,432 on developing six Facebook pages to promote Malaysian tourism. In an online news portal yesterday, Tourism Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit was quoted as saying the Facebook pages -- Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia, Citrawarna 1Malaysia, Karnival Jualan Mega 1Malaysia, Festival Pelancongan Seni Kontemporari 1Malaysia, Kempen 1Malaysia Bersih and Fabulous Food 1Malaysia -- costing RM293,072 each.Mamit reportedly gave these figures in Parliament yesterday.
But website developers and members of the public say the move was a waste of taxpayers' money.
Creative director Joey Khor, 33, who has seven years experience in developing websites, told The Malay Mail spending such an amount for setting up Facebook pages was simply not justifiable.
"Every website acts like a house and one have to 'drive traffic' to their 'houses' to promote it. Generally, the bulk of the money spent for websites is usually to attract traffic to it and Facebook pages are a form of an online marketing option.
"However, spending RM1.8 million on such a purpose is not justifiable."
Khor opined he could easily set up a digital agency and run the websites of five different companies for a year with RM1.8 million. "With almost RM300,000 spent for each page, I can create two iPhone applications."
Instead of setting up Facebook pages to promote Malaysian tourism, Khor said the ministry could have engaged in other online marketing strategies such as partnering with Google for promotional activities.
A website developer, who wished to remain anonymous, said a general website requires RM50,000 to RM200,000 to be set up, depending on its complexity.
"RM50,000 to RM80,000 is considered sufficient enough to develop each of the ministry's Facebook pages.
The 32-year-old said even international brands usually spend about RM1 million for their websites.
"My most expensive project was to develop a website for a company that needed me to create a template which could be adapted across all countries. The website development cost the company RM1.2 million.
"Compared to the Tourism Ministry's Facebook pages, the project I worked on was on a much higher scale. So, how could the ministry had spent more than us?"
Copy writer John Royce, from Petaling Jaya said the ministry either had extremely poor judgement when it comes to selecting its contractors for website development or they were not being completely honest with the public.
"Having worked in a digital marketing agency before, I think it's ridiculous to spend about RM300,000 for a Facebook page. In fact, you can get a full corporate website with all the bells and whistles, plus social media accounts created and managed for you for RM300,000.
"What's even more outrageous is that the government claim it can no longer afford to subsidise fuel. And yet here they are squandering taxpayers' money," said the 30-year-old.
Samantha Doray, 25, an architect said: "I opened the Facebook pages to find out if there was really anything worth RM1.8 million on them. The comments by the other users aptly describe my sentiments too. The ministry's idiocy is out there in the open for everyone to see."
Public relations officer Sasha Sundaran said there should be an inquiry done on how the ministry managed and spent the money.
"Malaysians need to know where their money is going."