Coverage by: Weekly Echo
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3: The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) says investigations must commence into Minister of Rural and Regional Development Zahid Hamid’s recent announcement of certain federal allocations to youth groups and indications of increase in the grants post election results while campaigning in Terengganu for the upcoming state elections.
The anti-graft agency also questioned the response of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner Azam Baki’s to the announcement. Azam Baki had said the grants were not an offence as they were approved by the federal government, and therefore had no element of bribery.
It said a probe must be carried out by MACC and if it does not, it must explain why it does not intend to address a potential offence which falls within its statutory mandate.
“Further, he (Azam Baki) has noted that there is no need to issue new guidelines to govern the provision of government aid and allocations during elections, as the Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA), specifically Section 10, is sufficiently clear and stringent.
“To understand the absurdity of Azam Baki’s response, an examination of Section 10 of the EOA is necessary. Section 10 covers the “corrupt practice” of bribery and includes the offering or promising of any money or valuable consideration for any elector or voter, which could reasonably be interpreted in a manner which covers Zahid Hamidi’s actions.
“Further, certain EOA offences are deemed to be “prescribed offences” under the MACC Act 2009 (MACC Act), over which the MACC is empowered to exercise all investigative powers available to it,” the anti-agency said in a statement today.
“Given that credible information on Zahid Hamidi’s announcement has been widely reported… it is incumbent upon the MACC to at the very least initiate investigations into the alleged offence. Azam Baki’s assertion that allocations approved by the federal government have no element of bribery does not have any legal basis, and flies in the face of the spirit of both Acts i.e. to combat corrupt practices in their myriad forms.
“If the MACC itself, which has been tasked with the responsibility of investigating corrupt practices under the EOA, refuses to take action when a potential instance of election bribery has occurred, who else can be relied upon to enforce the Act?
“Azam Baki is right in stating that Section 10 of the EOA clearly stipulates the “do’s and don’ts” which must be complied with by election candidates. However, his firm belief that the actions of Zahid Hamidi do not contravene any laws, without even conducting any inquiries into the matter, reflects a fundamental misreading of the very legislation he cites.”
In the statement, C4 Center also expressed disappointment that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim saw no error in Zahid’s action, having stated that the allocation had been pre-planned and maintained that there would not be any misuse of funds during election campaigning.
If each existing check and balance mechanism fails to take erring ministers to task, it will only entrench and perpetuate improper practices during election campaigning, it added.