Ex-Chairman: MACC advisory board has no authority to investigate conduct of agency, officers

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PM must set up RCI into MACC’s national state, extent of corruption and effectiveness as presently constituted and organised.

  • Need for a thorough review of the MACC’s present structure
  • No organisation anywhere in the world has ever been known to police itself
  • Institutions are compromised as they have been used politically since Mahathir’s regime
  • Once senior civil servants are beholden to their masters, their integrity is compromised
  • Malaysia is worse off now than it was 20 years ago

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Anti-Corruption Advisory Board does not have the authority to investigate the conduct of the agency nor its officers, said former board chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim.

He said there are matters beyond the board’s purview, as laid out in the MACC Act 2009.

“These panels have no power to investigate the conduct of officers,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“When I was chairman, I was aware of the fact that I was put in a purely advisory capacity.

“Things were done on a need-to-know basis, so issues outside our scope were really out of our reach.

“That is why apart from what is happening now, or what I call the ‘Azam Affair’, the prime minister must set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into MACC’s national state, extent of corruption, and effectiveness as presently constituted and organised.

“In other words, there is a need for a thorough review of the (agency’s) present structure.”

MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki allegedly owned 2.15 million shares in Excel Force MSC Bhd in 2015, as well as 1.93 million shares in Gets Global Bhd the same year and 1.02 million shares the following year.

The advisory panel has cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Azam told the media that he allowed his brother, Nasir, to use his trading account to purchase shares from the two companies.

The shares were later transferred to the latter’s account, he added.

But the MACC Act 2009 states that the advisory board does not have the authority to conduct its own investigation.

The Act allows the advisory board to only advise the agency on aspects of corruption, policies and strategies to eliminate corruption, and scrutinise and endorse proposals that lead to the effective running of the agency.

The board is also responsible for scrutinising and endorsing resources needed by the commission, scrutinising its annual reports, and submitting them to the Special Committee on Corruption.

MACC cannot police itself

Tunku Aziz said the board’s decision to conduct its own investigation despite not being empowered to do so shows that it is in dire need of an oversight committee.

“Any company without a board of directors or any organisation without an executive oversight committee, that is why you have this attitude. They can do as they like because there is no one looking after them.

“No organisation anywhere in the world has ever been known to police itself. But because of a lack of oversight, you get this situation.

“If we are serious about fighting corruption, we need to set up an executive board to which MACC is answerable. A board must be set up that has the power to direct the policy and operational aspects of the agency. Otherwise, we are just playing at fighting corruption.”

He said the executive board should comprise citizens of outstanding credentials – people who have no interest in protecting their own position, but instead look into all potential corruption issues.

Though MACC is supposed to be an independent body, it falls under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department. It also has many top-ranking officials who are civil servants.

Tunku Aziz said: “The whole thing is a joke. You call these people commissioners, (but) they are just government officers.”

“The commissioners should be a board of commissioners, which should be a governing body, but it has never existed. (It is now) the tail wagging the dog, instead of the dog wagging the tail.

“These institutions are compromised as they have been used politically since the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (former prime minister) regime. Once you make senior civil servants beholden to their masters, their integrity is compromised.”

Tunku Aziz said Malaysia is worse off now than it was 20 years ago, when he started the fight against corruption.

“I started a campaign against corruption 20 years ago, and it has gotten worse 20 years on. There are people who know how to fight corruption, but are not used to it because they are bound to be difficult to manage; so they get cronies. This is ridiculous.

“I am concerned with what is happening to a country once looked up to, where we talked about corruption in other countries.

“Malaysia was always up there, but it is at the bottom today.”

Tunku Aziz has worked with the World Bank and served as special adviser to former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. – TMI