Coverage by: MalaysiaKini
Related News: https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/637690
The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) has launched its MyGov Reforms Tracker report today, which monitors the developments of 11 out of 115 reform initiatives under the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) and two other important reform areas.
The two additional reform areas which were not included in the NACP are the Anti-Hopping Law and environmental governance.
“With just a year before the NACP’s stated date of completion of December 2023, not only is Malaysia regressing in its reforms, but also performing disastrously in keeping to its reform agenda.
“The MyGov Reform Tracker has demonstrated how all three governments since the 2018 general elections have failed in different ways and times to implement the NACP,” said the report’s author K Sudhagaran Stanley during the launch at Menara PKNS in Petaling Jaya today.
The progress of the 13 reform areas as tracked by C4 are as follows:
1. Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 (Reform)
The proposal to improve the Whistleblower Protection Act was first put forth by Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng on May 22, 2018, who said he would table a motion to do so in parliament.
The NACP progress report 2020 and 2021 later revealed that a working task force has been formed to conduct a review of the current legislation. They are aiming to finalise the amendments by December 2022.
C4 said the most notable problem with the current act is that it provides for a report to be filed only to enforcement agencies and the information must not be prohibited by any written law such as the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
A whistleblower would also lose their protection if they decide to go public with the information such as to the media or MPs, such as in the case of Lalitha Kunaratnam who is being sued by MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki over her expose of his trading shares.
2. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
The FOIA was meant to replace the OSA in 2020, as announced by the Pakatan Harapan administration the year before.
When the Perikatan Nasional government took over, then de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan had said Putrajaya was reviewing certain laws, including the OSA, from time to time.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar updated in June 2022 that engagement sessions on a possible right to information law have been carried out at both state and federal levels.
However, C4’s report noted that the latest parliament sitting has not provided any updates on this matter.
“It is clear that the consultation sessions have been completed by the cabinet has yet to decide on whether to proceed with the drafting of the law.
“This initiative appears to be now at the mercy of the cabinet for approval,” they said.
3. Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)
The much-anticipated IPCMC faced a lot of criticism and pushback from the opposition and the police force themselves during Harapan’s administration, resulting in the tabling of the bill being postponed several times.
The IPCMC Bill was eventually tabled for its first reading in Parliament but when the PN administration took over, the bill was withdrawn and replaced with an Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) bill.
The IPCC Bill, which C4 described as a watered-down version of the IPCMC Bill, was later passed under the BN/PN government in July 2022 despite criticisms and massive public outcry.
4. Asset declaration law
In July 2019, the Harapan government tabled a special motion in Parliament to compel all lawmakers to declare their assets. These asset declarations, which were made accessible to the public, were later withdrawn.
When PN took over the government, then-prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said all cabinet ministers were instructed to submit their asset declaration to the MACC.
On Sept 20 this year, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the asset declaration mechanism will be strengthened and will cover parliamentarians, senators and government officials.
C4 said the NACP mid-term review had said it would “undertake a study on the viability of a written law on asset declaration”, which is different from its original initiative to “introduce a written law on the declaration of asset”.
“With the new initiative, it is now up to the government if they would want to enact an asset declaration law for MPs once the study is presented to Cabinet,” the report read.
5. Separation of the attorney-general’s and public prosecutor’s powers
Tommy Thomas, the attorney-general appointed by the Harapan government, had said in June 2018 that one of his objectives is to separate the powers between the attorney-general and the public prosecutor.
Under the new BN/PN government, Wan Junaidi said in May 2022 that it is unlikely for the powers of the attorney-general and public prosecutor to be separated before the 15th general election if it is called this year.
C4 said this matter was one of the NACP’s top priorities but it has since diminished in importance.
They speculated that this is because all three governments fear losing prosecutorial powers if this was successfully implemented.
6. Establishment of Parliamentary Select Committees (PSCs)
A number of PSCs have been established since the Harapan administration, as well as the All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia (APPGM).
C4 noted that important PSCs on state and federal relations, consideration of bills, elections and major public appointments were terminated under the PN government.
When Ismail Sabri became prime minister, the existing PSCs were restructured for a more balanced composition of opposition and government lawmakers.
However, C4 noted that the work of these PSCs and APPGMs are publicised “insufficiently or not at all”.
7. Parliamentary Services Act
Anwar Ibrahim first brought up the revival of this act in March 2019. The Harapan government reportedly intended to table the bill in March 2020, but they were toppled one month before they could do so.
Both the PN and BN/PN governments subsequently continued to support the revival of the act but have yet to announce when it would be tabled, at the time of writing the C4 report.
It is worth noting that senate president Rais Yatim said today that the revived Parliamentary Services Bill and an amendment to the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 are expected to be tabled in Dewan Rakyat in November.
8. Ombudsman Act
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said that the Public Complaints Bureau would be known and function as Ombudsman Malaysia and for this, an Ombudsman Act would be drafted.
When Muhyiddin took over, it was reported that the Ombudsman Bill will be focusing on federal agencies.
In May 2022, under the BN/PN government, Wan Junaidi said the bill is due to be tabled this year.
C4 said it is urgent to pass this bill as it would allow civil servants to be held accountable for their actions.
9. Reforms to the MACC
The Harapan government had proposed a series of reforms to the MACC including appointing the chief commissioner via a PSC.
Muhyiddin’s government later formed the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption chaired by the prime minister himself.
There have not been any significant updates from the current government with regard to this matter.
Reforms to the MACC are a “critical” initiative as there have been numerous instances where the anti-graft agency has fallen short of public expectations, said C4.
10. Political Finance Law
Once the NACP’s number one priority under the Harapan administration, C4 said the coalition failed to table the bill during their time in power.
The latest update on a political finance law came on Sept 11 from Wan Junaidi, who said the bill is expected to be tabled in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting.
“Malaysia is in urgent need to regulate political funding as this area is regarded as the mother of all corruption,” C4 said.
11. Public Procurement Act
Then finance minister Lim Guan Eng announced in November 2018 during his budget speech that they intend to introduce the Government Procurement Act, which would be accompanied by open tender practices and punitive action against any abuse of power in relation to issuing contracts.
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz later said there is nothing wrong with conducting direct negotiations, as there are policies which justify such contracts under the Financial Procedure Act 1957.
C4 said the procurement process in Malaysia is mired in corruption, pointing to the 2002 procurement of two Scorpene-class submarines as well as the current littoral combat ships (LCS) scandal as examples.
“Despite the urgency and huge need to deal with this crisis, Malaysia is yet to see a procurement law come into place.
“It has been three years since the NACP was launched, yet one of the main causes of government leakages which is weak procurement controls, is yet to be plugged,” the group said.
12. Anti-Hopping Law
Status: Speedy implementation
While not part of the NACP initiatives, C4 said this legislation became a central agenda for Malaysians after the infamous ‘Sheraton Move’.
The constitutional amendment aimed at discouraging MPs from switching parties was passed by Dewan Rakyat on July 28.
“It is thus evident from this episode that if the government is serious in passing reforms, they could push it through even within a short period of time despite this initiative not being part of the NACP,” C4 noted.
13. Environmental governance
Status: Slow implementation
Even though this is not part of the NACP initiatives, C4 said they began tracking this issue because it is becoming evident that corruption, cronyism and poor governance are driving factors behind many environmental problems in the country.
While many promises have been made by the three governments when it comes to improving environmental governance, C4 notes that so far, Parliament has only passed amendments to the National Forestry Act in July 2022.
“While such laws are a step in the right direction, the larger issue of how power, politics and corruption surround environmental problems is not being addressed.
“This is the root cause of all environmental problems that we are facing. It must be addressed holistically and in tandem with reforms to the current legislations in place,” said C4.