Can MACC be truly independent to do more?

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Image: Berita Daily

As long as the MACC is not truly independent, we will continue to see mega financial scandals at the highest levels, exclaimed WH Cheng.

Recently, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), under the leadership of the newly appointed chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad, has made a string of arrests of high-ranking civil servants ranging from Datuks to Datuks Seri and Tan Sris.

Well, whenever MACC is helmed by a new chief, such enthusiasm seems to be bubbling. It begs the question of whether the new broom can sweep as well till the end.

Yes, Dzulkifli has adopted the right approach, according to many. But so did all the previous MACC chiefs, who had started well with a spate of arrests and prosecution of corrupt public figures.

But they ended up being frowned upon by many powerful politicians and leaders because MACC was trying its best to go deeper into these corrupt elements, their source and associates.

And let us not forget what had happened to the MACC last year when it was subjected to actions that demoralised its staff and made a mockery of its independence.

When the MACC probed the 1MDB scandal and the RM2.6bn found in the private bank account of Prime Minister Najib Razak, executive interference into MACC’s investigation became very clear from the swift transfer of some MACC investigation officials.

The police also raided the MACC headquarters and confiscated many of its investigation papers when the commission was in the midst of probing the 1MDB scandal and the alleged RM2.6bn ‘donation’ to the prime minister.

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The police justified their action by claiming that there was a possible leak of sensitive information to the public that may jeopardise the position of the prime minister.

This interference by the executive and security apparatus indeed tarnished the image and reputation of the commission as a credible law enforcement body to combat corruption. It gave the impression that the graft-busters were too weak and powerless to discharge their responsibilities in a proper manner.

Such a situation is indeed disturbing because it shows that the role of the MACC can be undermined so easily by powerful politicians and leaders.

The MACC’s efforts in combating corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement in all sectors must not be weakened or even restricted by any executive decisions, the security forces, laws or other forms of interference by those in powerful positions.

In this case, the MACC’s position ought to be strengthened to ensure the commission can carry out its roles, duties and responsibilities effectively, and without fear or favour.

MACC should be truly independent

Currently, the MACC comes under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department, from which it also receives funding for its operations.

Such an awkward situation often raises serious questions on whether the MACC is really independent whereby all its operations and investigations are free from any outside interference.

The MACC should be an independent entity solely responsible to parliament instead of the current practice of having to answer to the Prime Minister’s Department.

On the oversight panels, Section 14 of the MACC Act 2009 (Act 694) should be amended to reorganise the Special Committee on Corruption into a full-fledged Parliamentary Select Committee on Anti-Corruption as well as to widen its role from merely advising and examining to scrutinising the management and operational activities of the commission.

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In other words, the select committee should act as a check and balance mechanism to ensure that the MACC adheres to the standard operating procedures agreed upon.

The current Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, Operations Review Panel and Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel should be abolished and the roles of these panels should be transferred to the select committee.

The Complaints Committee should be transformed into an independent complaints committee whose members should be appointed by the Agong on the recommendation of select committee. It should comprise members of the public who have distinguished themselves in the service of the nation.

Similar to the Complaints Committee, the independent complaints committee should be tasked with handling complaints of misconduct of MACC officers, to identify possible weaknesses in the commission’s work and to make recommendations for improvement.

I believe that the select committee and the Independent Complaints Committee should be sufficient to ensure the effectiveness of the MACC as having too many oversight and advisory panels may be a duplication of efforts and waste of funds.

A service commission of its own

Another crucial area for the MACC is its staffing. Currently, the MACC depends solely on the Public Service Commission to supply the required personnel. In this case, the commission too reserves the right to transfer any personnel to or from the MACC, which on occasions may hinder ongoing case investigations.

The MACC should be allowed to have its own service commission that is empowered to hire, fire, transfer, promote and reward personnel at its own discretion.

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This way, the MACC would be in a better position to exercise professionalism and meet public expectation to combat corruption without any executive interference.

As long as the MACC is not truly independent, we will continue to see mega financial scandals at the highest levels, the auditor general’s report will see tons of wastage, mismanagement and abuse of power every year and the big fish will roam free to enjoy their ill-gotten gains.

Source: Berita Daily

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