JD Lovrenciear reports on a civil society initiative to lobby for a system of checks and balances to rein in the abuses at government-linked companies.
Fifty civil society groups have marshalled their collective resources to lobby for greater accountability and transparency among government-linked companies in the country.
What would have been almost impossible in past decades has taken root with the formation of the GLC Reform Cluster, comprising Aliran, C4 Center, Gabungan Pembebasan Akademik, Global Bersih, Hakam, Ideas, Hakam, Pusat Komas and Proham. This reform cluster is part of a larger Civil Society Organisations’ Platform for Reform Coalition, backed by the 50 groups.
At a well-attended press conference held at Gerakbudaya in Petaling Jaya today, a panel of five speakers – Terence Gomez, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, Nik Azura Nik Nasron and Nicole Fong – spelt out their determination to push for a system of checks and balances to be put in place for all government-linked companies in the country. Also present at today’s event were representatives from the groups backing the initiative,
Few know for sure exactly how many government-linked companies there are in the country. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently described some of them as “monsters”, adding to the growing public concern.
The GLC Reform Cluster recommended that the government, in keeping with its promises made, had to immediately set up an independent task force. A seven-point terms of reference for the task force was tabled for the Pakatan Harapan government to take note.
Among the proposals were the critical need for amendments to the Companies Act, thereby ensuring that all government-linked companies register with the Companies Commission of Malaysia.
Making public audited reports and subjecting themselves to forensic audits would further put a leash on the arbitrary and undisclosed manner in which these companies have been operating under the cloak of political patronage, as witnessed in the past.
Gomez, a Senior Fellow at Ideas, said that past attempts at reining in the government-linked companies, under both the Najib Razak and Abdullah Badawi administrations did not see any progress. Instead the extent of the abuses has bled the country leading to large-scale financial scandals while leaving these companies at state and federal levels open to further unmitigated abuse.
The main objective of creating government-linked companies – “providing services to the rakyat, and securing our collective future as a nation” – must be restored at all costs if the new Pakatan Harapan government is to fulfil a critical promise made in its manifesto.
The reform team indicated that young leaders are also taking on the responsibility of ensuring that the country’s wealth is better managed and free from abuse and political interference.
Azura from Gabungan Pembebasan Akademik highlighted the plight of Mara students, Felda settlers and low-income families who have yet to benefit out from National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) scholarship opportunities.
C4 Center director Cynthia Gabriel pointed out a few worrying statements and positions taken by the new government. Referring to the recent statement by the agriculture minister who tried to justify the new appointees to replace certain Umno/BN loyalists as heads of government-linked companies, Gabriel questioned the process and capability of such appointees.
Ambiga, now an ex-officio executive committee member of Hakam, said that, given our track record of political abuses involving government-linked companies, “public scrutiny is the best check and balance…. and the GLC Reform Task Force (must be done) immediately”.
The group agreed that the prime minister was right in openly labelling the these companies as monsters. This added urgency to the setting up of the proposed task force and the seven-point recommendation put forward and backed by 50 civil society groups today.
The civil society leaders stressed that Pakatan Harapan’s promises, especially its pledge to reform government-linked companies, had to be fulfilled as voters would not be easily forgive any breach. That said, the civil society leaders felt the new government would be receptive to the setting up of the proposed independent task force without delay.
The civil society leaders stressed Pakatan Harapan’s promises, especially its pledge to reform government-linked companies, must be fulfilled as voters would not easily forgive any breaches. That said, the civil society leaders felt the new government would be receptive to the setting up of the proposed independent task force without delay.