How long more for a Freedom of Information Act, asks anti-graft group

Coverage by: Free Malaysia Today

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PETALING JAYA: The Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) has questioned when the government plans to enact a Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

“For how long will this Act be pushed to the back burner,” asked the anti-graft group in a statement.

It noted that law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had in June confirmed that discussions on the proposed law had been completed and that recommendations would be presented to Putrajaya “soon”.

The absence from the Parliament’s website archives of the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) reports for the years 2019 to 2021 was an example of the state’s failure to facilitate the dissemination of information, the statement said.

C4 said an FOI Act would ensure government institutions provide information to citizens when requested, adding that this was a matter listed under Malaysia’s National Anti-Corruption Plan (NCAP).

The anti-graft group also said it had been calling for the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) to be reformed as the existing law was prone to abuse, citing as a recent example the RM9 billion littoral combat ship (LCS) scandal.

The OSA stipulates that a document could be classified as an official secret by any individual holding public office at a certain level of seniority, it said.

“Just last month, two reports on the LCS scandal from 2018 and 2020 showing clear mismanagement of public funds and strong links to corrupt practices in the procurement were declassified,” said C4.

It said the project was allowed to continue for years because it had been shielded from public scrutiny using the OSA.

The group also cited the alleged scandal in 2018 involving a government-linked company (GLC) called Pembinaan PFI Sdn Bhd, which saw the GLC obtaining RM30 billion in loans from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP).

More recently, the Cabinet’s approval of the health ministry’s appointment of MySJ Sdn Bhd through direct negotiation to refine the MySejahtera application was also protected from public scrutiny, it said.

“As the next general election looms, the link between our democratic institutions and the ability for information to flow as freely as possible becomes stronger than ever, as we look back on the governments we have witnessed and look ahead to ostensibly choosing the next one.

“If information is the lifeblood that sustains the body politic, then the right to know is the vessel that makes the sustenance possible,” it said.




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