C4 Center condemns MACC chief’s reappointment

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Process for appointing the chief commissioner of the MACC has been the subject of criticism for years.

Bernama

Corruption watchdog Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) has blasted the reappointment of Azam Baki as MACC chief, saying it highlights the ongoing failure of the Madani government to enact institutional reform.

Pointing out that it previously objected to Azam’s contract extension this time last year, C4 Center said it reiterates the criticism it made then.

“Namely, that the credibility and independence of the MACC remains in question so long as the appointment process of the chief commissioner is not reformed.

“C4 Center calls for greater momentum in the implementation of extensively discussed reforms to decentralise and democratise executive power,” it said in a statement today.

It highlighted that Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Zuki Ali’s announcement of Azam’s appointment was made in accordance with Sections 5(1) and (2) of the MACC Act 2009, which provides for the chief commissioner’s appointment to be made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the prime minister.

C4 claimed the phrase “on the advice” under these sections removed any discretion from the Agong pursuant to Article 40(1A) of the Federal Constitution and asserted that the decision to reappoint Azam for another year was solely attributable to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

It also pointed to prior investigations into Azam over share trading, although it should be noted that the Securities Commission found he did not commit any offence in the matter.

“As previously highlighted by C4 Center, it was revealed through investigations by a journalist that Azam owned millions of shares in two publicly listed companies while he was head of MACC’s investigations department.

“Azam subsequently sued the journalist for defamation in a clear instance of ‘strategic litigation against public participation’ (Slapp), and even used this defamation suit as one of many excuses not to appear before a Parliamentary Select Committee that had summoned him to testify,” it alleged.

It also pointed out that an MACC probe in April 2022 into judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali was declared non-compliant with proper protocol by the Federal Court in February 2023.

“This investigation conducted under Azam’s leadership was, according to a unanimous bench of seven judges, done ‘without regard to judicial independence’ and had ‘curious timing’, casting doubt upon the bona fides of the exercise.

“Were these seriously controversial incidents taken into consideration by the prime minister before deciding on his reappointment?” asked C4 Center.

It said the process for appointing the chief commissioner of the MACC has been the subject of criticism for years and that civil society organisations had called for the creation of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Corruption which would be tasked with the nomination of commissioners to the anti-corruption commission.

“This issue was even raised during Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review’s session before the United Nations Human Rights Council on Jan 25, 2024, where the international community examined its human rights record for the past five years.

“There, the Canadian delegation emphasised the demands of domestic advocates by recommending that permanent independent bodies such as parliamentary select committees be established to oversee appointments to anti-corruption and other oversight institutions.

“The government had previously somewhat addressed this matter in the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) 2019-2023 by proposing a Public Appointments Bill to ‘regulate the exercise of executive power in respect of public appointments to certain constitutional and statutory offices, which presumably would cover the statutory office of MACC chief commissioner’.

“However, this NACP initiative was never implemented,” said C4 Center.

It added that the newly minted National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2024-2028 stipulates that relooking at the requirements for appointing and dismissing the MACC chief commissioner shall be a long-term strategy, with an anticipated period of four to five years for implementation.

“This delay shall prove detrimental to Anwar’s administration, as any investigations initiated by MACC on politically-linked persons, especially those who are politically opposed to the prime minister, will inevitably be perceived as unjust and selective.

“As long as the appointment process remains unreformed, this government shall suffer from erosion of credibility and public confidence.

“In summary, the reappointment of an individual plagued with scandals he has not answered for, to such an important office, is already disappointing…

“And the institutional capacity to combat corruption and uphold good governance in Malaysia shall remain impaired without sufficient devolution of the powers which have been centralised in the hands of the prime minister,” it added. – Malaysiakini