Recommendations on corruption a step in the right direction

Steven Thiru, President, Malaysian Bar | .

The Malaysian Bar refers to the press release by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) Special Committee on Corruption, entitled “Laporan Tahunan Badan Bebas SPRM Harap Syor Pindaan Undang-Undang Rasuah Dibawa ke Parlimen Secepat Mungkin”, which was issued in conjunction with the submission of its Special Committee on Corruption Report 2014 (“2014 Report”) to the Government and to Parliament on 1 December 2015.

The Special Committee on Corruption expressed its disappointment that the recommendations it submitted to the Government three years ago — especially with regard to amendments to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 (“MACC Act”) — have yet to be tabled in Parliament.  The recommendations included proposals to amend provisions of the MACC Act, such as Section 23 (which provides that it is an offence for any officer of a public body to use his office or position for any “gratification”) and Section 36 (which deals with the MACC’s power to obtain information), as well as proposals for the establishment of a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Service Commission as a constitutional commission, and the appointment of the Chief Commissioner of the MACC to be under the Federal Constitution.

The 2014 Report also proposed the formation of an independent panel to study investigation papers involving high-profile cases before they are submitted to the Attorney General for consideration for prosecution.

In this regard, since mid-2014 the Malaysian Bar has been working in collaboration with the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (“IDEAS”), the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (“C4”), Citizens’ Network for a Better Malaysia (“CNBM”), and Transparency International Malaysia (“TI-M”), on proposals to reform the MACC to become an independent anti-corruption agency.  This will enable it to comprehensively address and deal with the scourge of corruption.  A joint memorandum was submitted to the MACC on 28 July 2015, and to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Governance and Integrity, Senator Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, on 11 November 2015.

The reform proposals contained in the joint memorandum include:

(1) the creation of a constitutionally mandated Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (“IACC”) that would be placed beyond the scope, control and influence of the executive government.  The MACC is at the moment under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department;

(2) provisions for a Chief Commissioner and members of the IACC, who would enjoy security of tenure.  Members of the commission would include civil society representatives; 

(3) amendments to the MACC Act, including amendments to Section 23 and Section 36;

(4) amendments to related legislation such as the Official Secrets Act 1972, Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, and Witness Protection Act 2009; and

(5)          a proposal to separate the office of the Attorney General from the office of the Public Prosecutor, with the former to be solely the legal advisor to the government, and the latter to focus on prosecution of criminal matters and to be therefore accountable and answerable for the public interest in all prosecutions.

These proposals are necessary, as the fight against corruption must be addressed holistically in order to make genuine progress towards a corruption-free Malaysia.

In ratifying the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2008, Malaysia made a solemn commitment that it would “grant the (preventive anti-corruption) body or bodies … the necessary independence, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system, to enable the body or bodies to carry out its or their functions effectively and free from any undue influence”.

The proposals by the Special Committee on Corruption are therefore a step in the right direction, and they deserve undivided support.

 

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