Use of public funds must adhere to the highest standards of accountability and not through emergency proclamations, says C4 Center

Press Statement
23 APRIL 2021 

The latest emergency ordinance, which amended the National Trust Fund Act 1988, is part of a disquieting trend in the ordinances passed thus far since January 13 this year. With a common theme of being able to tap into funds without check and balance, this raises concerns about the potential for serious abuse and corruption, especially in this time of crisis for Malaysia. 

The National Trust Fund is reported as having RM16.9 billion in assets as of the end of 2017, with Petronas as its most notable contributor. While, under the original act, the funds can be utilised in the name of the Development Funds Act 1966 to purchase public health supplies, the funds still needed to be disbursed through Parliament, a key element for check and balance. 

The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) joins the chorus of voices demanding transparency on what happened to the RM3 billion announced by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul to procure vaccines, as Parliamentary questions over its invisibility in Budget 2021 has raised real suspicions. If it was parked under the COVID 19 fund, the legislation did not specify vaccines as a permitted expenditure. 

Still, the National Trust Fund takes this into account with its provision that it can be used to purchase public health supplies, which vaccines are ostensibly categorised as. 

This new ordinance is not the first of its kind. It reads as the government allowing itself to bypass the normal check and balance of Parliament to use the monies in the fund, in the name of the Covid-19 emergency. 

In late March, the government had gazetted an ordinance which allows the prime minister, chief ministers or menteris besar to pass a supplementary budget and tap into funds without going through Parliament or their respective state assemblies. 

The first ordinance, which came into effect immediately, has already come under fire for its lack of checks and balances, and this does not reflect well on a government that has seen recent corruption scandals plaguing the nation. 

We live now in a Malaysia surrounded by multiple corruption scandals, with “cartels” exposed one after another in the administration of our country, as well as questions about the recovery of assets from the 1MDB fiasco still hanging over Malaysia. It is imperative that the government adheres to the highest standards of transparency, and buck up. The PN administration must demonstrate its respect for accountable governance, if it is to rebuild waning public confidence.  

C4 Center demands a necessary and clear accounting by the government regarding transparency around public expenditure during these difficult times of the pandemic, for the long-term accountability of our public health system. 

Clearing the air can only be a boon towards the state of the nation now, while hiding behind the state of emergency and bypassing Parliament in this way only serves to justify the people’s opinion of a failed government. 

Released by:
Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center)

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