C4 Center denounces lawsuit threat against PAC chairman

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Graphic: csj-ng.org

The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) denounces the threat made by the Federal Territories Foundation (YWP) to sue Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Wong Kah Woh, construing it as interference in an independent checks-and-balances, bipartisan mechanism in Parliament, not to mention an affront against good governance as a whole.

This follows on the heels of a PAC report into a public concern probe, namely the dubious land deals of Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

The report from the PAC investigation showed that the dubious land deals City Hall was involved in were attributed to the lack of standard operating procedures for the sales and disposals of assets since 2011, with improvements only added in 2015.

The PAC also found a conflict of interest within the management of YWP, with the foundation involved in various land dealings with DBKL that were called into question. YWP had reportedly tried to seek legal action against the PAC findings.

“The PAC’s report vindicates our longstanding detailed research and advocacy work, as well as that of the affected communities in raising such serious matters of concern despite little support from those in power,” said Cynthia Gabriel, executive director of C4 Center.

The issue of the land deals, which C4 Center had found to be worth RM4.3bn, saw a lack of clarity and opaque explanations from then-Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad.

The transactions had taken place under the purview of former Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor. Despite the change of government, the details remained secret and kept away from the public eye.

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Former Federal Territories Minister Khalid had failed to address, among other matters, how the land deals became dubious in the first place, why the standard operating procedures were not followed and the kind of reforms that he intended to take as preventive measures. To date, the special taskforce report on the issue of the land deals has not been released to the public or relevant stakeholders.

“YWP’s purported involvement in some of the land deals is of great concern because YWP, being a private limited company, is not subject to any federal or government audits. Hence, there is no transparency or accountability mechanism to detect fraud and/or conflict of interest over the dealings involving government land.

“The fact that the current FT Minister Annuar Musa continues to helm YWP perpetuates the conflict of interest that existed during the previous administration. Annuar, retaining his powers under the Federal Territory (Planning) Act 1982 (Act 267) to overrule the Kuala Lumpur mayor on planning issues, is the chairman of a private landowner – YWP, while concurrently carrying the power to have government decisions made in favour of that same private landowner.

“Clearly, this is an issue of conflict of interest and potentially abuse of power as seen in the past,” added Gabriel.

Despite the purported attempts to clear up the land deals, it was a disappointing show from the Ministry of Federal Territories, the actions seemingly compromised due to the stoic defence of the conflicts of interest so evident within the YWP.

Worse was that those actions made it more likely for corrupt deals to take place through the failure to address the issue of the land deals upon the completion of the Special Taskforce Report.

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C4 Center would like to call for the Special Taskforce Report on the issue of the land deals from 2018 to be debated in Parliament. The demand for the Perikatan Nasional government to build greater trust from millions of Kuala Lumpur constituents must be met with greater accountability and not threats to sue.

C4 Center also urges the MACC to shed details on their prior investigations and reinvestigate the 97 dubious land deals, particularly those involving YWP.

C4 Center calls for YWP to be abolished entirely as well, rather than being converted to a statutory body. Instead, the creation of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) division within DBKL to take on YWP’s work would allow for better governance and transparency.

The sterling work of the PAC must be protected and reflect the embodiment of a truly functioning legislature.

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