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ANY formation of an oversight body to investigate misconduct by enforcement personnel should be truly independent and placed under the purview of parliament, anti-graft watchdogs said.
Welcoming the establishment of an impartial and independent oversight body to investigate complaints of misconduct in all enforcement agencies, Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said it had long called for this, especially in relation to certain institutions that faced allegations of corruption and were allowed to act with impunity in the past.
C4 chief executive officer Pushpan Murugiah said as the country moves towards embracing a harder stance against corruption, the institutions entrusted to carry out this fight must themselves maintain transparency and integrity.
“The most important feature of this independent body is that it has to be truly independent, as divorced from political interference as possible, and for this to be adequately maintained, it has to be answerable only to parliament.
“Only then do questions regarding its powers and functions become relevant as it will be far less likely to be manipulated by individuals and parties for their own benefit,” Pushpan said.
The C4 CEO added that current monitoring mechanisms such as the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), the Public Complaints Bureau, and the yet-to-be-implemented Independent Police Conduct Commission are far too weak and prone to political abuse to provide any meaningful oversight and remedy to aggrieved parties.
He said the proposed body would need enforcement powers of its own.
“It (the body) needs to be adequately empowered to conduct independent investigations into enforcement agencies without having these investigations shut down abruptly.
“In addition, this body will also need to be able to enforce sanctions against individuals found to have committed impropriety instead of leaving it to the enforcement agency concerned to conduct internal disciplinary action,” Pushpan added.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim suggested establishing an impartial and independent oversight body to investigate complaints of misconduct in all enforcement agencies.
He said the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission bill proposed earlier only focused on the police, and he asked the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to review the proposal for an independent body that could investigate all enforcement agencies, including the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Pushpan suggested the body be led by individuals with knowledge of the structure, internal workings, and even culture of the enforcement agencies being monitored.
“This can range from academics and lawyers to former high-ranking civil servants.
“What is most important is that they possess extensive knowledge of how the enforcement agencies function.
“It is imperative this oversight body is not one in name alone, where they only present an additional administrative barrier for enforcement agencies to jump over,” he said.
Malaysian Corruption Watch president Jais Abdul Karim echoed Pushpan’s views.
“Currently, the EAIC is responsible for investigating all complaints regarding enforcement agencies except for the police and MACC.
“With regard to the MACC oversight body, there have been several committees established to ensure there are checks and balances while the police have their own Integrity and Standard Compliance Department,” he said.
In accordance with the establishment of MACC, five external oversight bodies were formed to monitor the anti-graft agency’s functions.
The five entities are the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, Special Committee on Corruption, Complaints Committee, Operations Review Panel, and Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel.
Jais added that the oversight body should be placed under parliament for better accountability.
He said this would allay fears of interference in investigations.
“Imagine if the majority of the committee is made up of civil servants, then during investigation, if any minister or even the prime minister gets involved, there could be instructions for the investigation to be delayed or stopped,” Jais added.
He said besides having an oversight body to monitor misconduct, a special commission was needed to appoint the heads of the enforcement agencies.
“This also could be placed under parliament,” he said.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), meanwhile, applauded Anwar’s move to place MACC under parliament and have the Parliamentary Select Committee vet the appointment process of its chief.
Anwar had said he “had no objections” to reform the appointment process – the mechanism of which had been suggested in detail by various bodies including Bersih, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, and Transparency International Malaysia.
“We understand that any reform mechanism will go through the AGC and be deliberated by the select committee, and hope it will be done in a transparent manner inclusive of participation by civil society,” said Bersih.
“We also welcome the prime minister’s stand he ‘agrees’ the role of the attorney-general should be separated from that of the public prosecutor.
“This separation, as well as the reforms to the MACC chief’s appointment process, must be expedited to strengthen institutional autonomy and dispel perceptions of ‘politically motivated charges’ brought against former prime ministers and opposition MPs,” Bersih added. – March 29, 2023.