March 15, 2017
By Salahuddin Hisham
A financial weekly expressed frankly the need for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to be independent.
The repeated call had come about following a reported comment of Deputy MACC Commissioner Datuk Azam Baki that corruption was on the rise.
Reports in the media highlighted that 50 per cent of corruption cases involved government servants.
The financial weekly argued that the MACC is a statutory body under the Prime Minister’s Department and falls under the power of the Public Services Department, thus is not independent
They quoted an idiom – fish rots from the head down.
The weakness with such argument is that it is too simplistic, rhetorical, and populist.
MACC is no longer a bureau under the PM’s Department as practised under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and earlier prime ministers but is an independent commission.
Under the present structure of government, all departments, agencies and independent commission are placed under a ministry or the PM’s Department for administrative reasons.
The important element is that there is no involvement or interference of the minister or the PM in the administration or investigation undertaken by the MACC.
The presence of five independent operation panels with members, including opposition politicians, monitors the operation of the MACC from any possibility of investigations being indiscriminately dismissed or covered up.
The narrative to de-link government establishments from the MACC has been heard before but it is overly simplistic, unrealistic and populist.
To do so, it requires a system-wide reform of the British-inherited civil service. A thorough study needs to be done and the changes managed.
What do they suggest should be done?
Their proposal that such institutions be placed under Parliament or the Yang Di Pertuan Agong is not feasible.
They are administratively not in the capacity to do so.
Such a politically-motivated demand and will be counter-productive.
The public is tired of political rhetorics devoid of specific and practical suggestions. The financial weekly itself was accused of being a party to an alleged political conspiracy.
It seemed they were recycling the same allegations on the past transfers of MACC officers under the guise of calling for independence.
They might have intentionally ignored the fact that one of the transferred officers was recently exposed of abusing power.
Their selfish political manouvre runs counter productive to current campaign on the more important agenda to rid corruption in the civil service.
From the coverage of their latest issue, the suggestion might have to do with the answer in Parliament with regards to Casey Tan and Jasmine Loo.
The fish rots from the head down. And, doctors tend to cut off damaged limbs. Their suggestion will be similar to cutting off the rotting fish head.
The problem is it is the wrong fish. MACC is not involved in investigating 1MDB!