C4: MACC ACT Has Mandate To Investigate Political Donations, While Political Donations Law Needs Expenditure

PETALING JAYA (Tuesday): Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Deputy Chief Commissioner (Operations) Datuk Azam Baki’s comments last Sunday that it has no jurisdiction to investigate political donations are actually off the mark. Cynthia Gabriel of C4 Center believes that the MACC Act (2010) does empower them to investigate such donations.

C4 Center believes that MACC actually does possess jurisdiction to investigate political donations. The MACC Act 2009, Section 16 (Offence of Accepting Gratification) reads:

Any person who by himself, or by or in conjunction with any other person […] corruptly gives, promises or offers to any person whether for the benefit of that person or another person, any gratification as an inducement to or a reward for or otherwise on account of (A) any person doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction, actual or proposed or likely to take place […] commits an offence.

Section 3 (Interpretation) defines ‘gratification’, which includes donations, rewards, financial benefit and even ‘any other similar advantage’. This means that MACC is exercising its executive discretion to not investigate this public allegation, for reasons unknown to the public.

“One on hand, MACC is trying to wash its hands from investigating political financing. On the other hand, money politics is already rearing its head even before GE dates have been announced. Why is Datuk Paul Low’s PDEA bill being delayed when there are issues that need to be addressed now for GE14?”

– Cynthia Gabriel, C4 Center

There are precedents for investigation over political donations. In 2012, MACC had investigated RM40 million in smuggled cash, allegedly for the personal use of Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman [link]. In 2015, a special task force comprising MACC, the Royal Malaysian Police and Bank Negara Malaysia raided SRC International Berhad on allegations that funds had been distributed to the Prime Minister’s personal accounts [link]

Recent allegations by Raja Petra Kamarudin that Lim Kit Siang was bribed for RM1 billion by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad are merely the latest symptoms of a long-standing disease of money politics that has a real need to be addressed. MACC is at the forefront of corruption prevention in Malaysia. It cannot simply stand by.

The greater issue is the need for a specific law to address money politics and political financing in Malaysia. While the Political Donations and Expenditure Act (PDEA), as proposed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low is but one step in the right direction, C4 together with other NGOs have stated serious reservations about the lack of limits on political donations, and that its emphasis is merely on transparency than systematic reform.

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In conjunction with the recommendations of the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing (JKNPP), C4 Center and 69 other civil society organisations have endorsed an alternative white paper on responsible political financing in Malaysia. We recommended that in the PDEA also include the following laws:

· Political party donations should have limits. This includes services or donations in kind by individuals, corporations, or third parties, and furthermore restricts anonymous donorship.

· A ‘Political Parties Act’ needs to be enacted. This act intends to enable the deeper auditing and financial oversight of political parties, which are currently governed only by the Societies Act 1996.

· Public financing of political parties needs to be introduced. This reduces their dependence on private financing from well-endowed individuals or corporations.

But as we wait for an effective legislation to be enacted, we reiterate that MACC has powers to investigate political donations. Otherwise, if MACC fails to act how can it win public opinion and say it is pursuing its mission to stop corruption at all levels in Malaysia?