Strengthen anti-corruption laws, reform MACC to enhance effectiveness

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The government must remember, the people do not want to see the repeat of yet another kind of 1MDB scandal, writes WH Cheng.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was established under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009 with the intention of enhancing the organisation’s effectiveness in combating corruption and abuse of power in this country.

However, during its inception, the MACC was put under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department, where the independence of the MACC was questioned as the commission reports directly to the prime minister instead of Parliament.

After the new federal government was sworn in following the 2018 general election, the leadership of the new government immediately took measures to place the MACC under the direct jurisdiction of Parliament and have the then chief commissioner replaced.

The new government was not able to convert the MACC into a fully-fledged constitutional body with complete independence as it does not have a two-thirds majority in Parliament to add this provision to the Federal Constitution.

The government should look into other efforts to add a provision the Section 2 of the MACC Act 2009 to guarantee its independence. It should be provided with prosecutorial powers instead of continuing to rely on the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) in deciding any prosecution against alleged corrupt and malpractices.

The numerous offences and penalties provided in Part IV of the MACC Act 2009 should also be reviewed to include other definitions of corrupt practice or malpractice, abuse of position or office, and advancement of one’s aims, status or promotional prospects.

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Importantly, the act should also include a provision to empower the MACC to order those in senior public positions or senior positions of public interest who are seen or reported to be living beyond their reasonable means to declare their personal assets – and the assets of their spouse, children and other close relatives – in order to justify their means of being able to own such amount of assets or money.

These amendments or additional provisions to the MACC Act 2009 certainly do not require a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament to have it strengthened.

Then why is this government delaying its efforts to turn the MACC into a most effective corruption-busting institution when it has the opportunity to do so?

Apart from that, the resolution on declaration of assets which was passed in Parliament recently only applies to all members of Parliament from both sides of the political divide who now have to declare their assets and holdings to the MACC. What about other positions of public interest? Why are senior civil servants at certain grades with extensive powers not included?

Apart from MPs, it is also crucial to have all top civil servants as well as senior executives from government-linked-companies declare their assets to the public to ensure their trustworthiness and their utmost service to the nation’s interests instead of their personal interests.

The fact that the MACC is not empowered to order an asset declaration to be made without first initiating an investigation against an alleged corrupt practice is one of the biggest loopholes that may see many corrupt officials escape justice due to this limitation on enforcement.

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The government ought to demonstrate stronger political will in putting through those amendments in order to strengthen the MACC’s efforts in combating corruption at all levels. MACC officers should be equipped with all necessary powers and tools, without fear or favour in facing up to the most powerful and corrupt in this country.

The government must remember, the people do not want to see the repeat of yet another kind of 1MDB, Tabung Haji, Felda, Mara, the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) or Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandals which possibly could further see billions of ringgit being swindled into the personal account of yet another leader.

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