Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim must explain the decision behind MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki’s contract extension, said anti-corruption advocate Cynthia Gabriel.
The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) founder said it thwarted Anwar’s own anti-corruption agenda.
“The extension is not a good step, when in fact it’s a spoke in the wheel for Anwar’s crusade against corruption.
“He needs to explain his decision. Surely, we can institute a transparent and accountable process around appointments already through the parliamentary select committee,” she told Malaysiakini.
Gabriel, who sits in the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Anti-Corruption and Responsible Tax, added that she would like to urgently meet with the prime minister over the matter.
Azam’s contract extension was announced on Wednesday (May 10). He reached his mandatory retirement age today.
He was appointed as MACC chief in 2020 by then-prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, replacing Latheefa Koya who resigned after the change in government that year.
Under the MACC Act 2009, a MACC chief commissioner is appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong – based on the prime minister’s advice.
However, Azam came under fire over a share ownership scandal that raised questions on whether it was commensurate with his income as a public servant and sparked conflict of interest concerns.
Azam claimed the shares were not his but purchased by his brother in his name, prompting the Securities Commission to also get involved over the possible misuse of his trading account.
Meanwhile, political economist Edmund Terence Gomez told Malaysiakini earlier that Azam’s reappointment was “deeply shocking”.
“The chief commissioner was deeply discredited last year when allegations involving his acquisition of shares were exposed. He was subsequently discredited by remaining as the chief commissioner.
“He has therefore discredited the institution he leads,” Gomez said.
Gomez pointed out that it was just in March when Anwar told the Dewan Rakyat that there was no issue with passing the power to select a new MACC chief to a parliamentary special select committee (PSSC).
He added that in order to not repeat situations like Azam’s term extension, longstanding reforms must be put in place.
As such, he called for a review of the MACC Act to allow its chief commissioner to be selected by an advisory board.
Panels such as the PSSC – whose members are selected by the prime minister – should also be made truly independent, he said.
“My proposal is that the MACC chief commissioner should be appointed by an advisory board, one that is independently selected.
“In both cases, the Prime Minister’s Office should not have a say in these matters.
“Both the advisory board and the MACC chief commissioner should be accountable to the PSSC – which should be led by a member of the opposition.
“Such internal reforms would mean that there is an arm’s length relationship between the MACC and the executive branch,” he said.
Gomez said that these were “low-hanging fruits” that could be done in the next parliamentary sitting.
Azam played a key role in MACC’s investigations on 1MDB-related matters and led the probe into the Port Klang Free Zone affair.
As MACC chief, he has also overseen probes against DAP chairperson Lim Guan Eng, Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, and Bersatu and its leadership, among others.
The agency under his lead also probed SRC International trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali over alleged conflict of interest and misconduct.
In the run-up to the 2022 general election, PKR deputy president Rafizi Ramli even threatened to “look for” Azam if Pakatan Harapan forms the federal government.
However, after Harapan came to power, he clarified that he did not threaten to go after Azam. – Malaysiakini