Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Anti-graft watchdog engages MACC for the first time, seeks reforms to commission’s powers


BY JENNIFER GOMEZ
FEBRUARY 11, 2014
A new anti-graft watchdog will be pushing for reforms to the MACC Act to expand the commission's role in combating corruption, including giving it the power to prosecute and to provide better protection for whistle-blowers.
These issues were discussed yesterday at a closed-door meeting between the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), the top brass of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and reps from 12 NGOs.
The MACC was represented by chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, deputy commissioner Datuk Sutinah Sutan, advisory board member Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas and director of investigation Datuk Mustafar Ali.

C4 co-founder Cynthia Gabriel (pic) said this was the first time the MACC has engaged with civil society to listen to the public's concerns on the shortcomings of the commission.
Recently, the MACC expressed concern over speculation in the media regarding two former officers of a cabinet minister who were not brought to court, despite an announcement being made previously that the two will be charged.
“As an independent panel, we’re concerned with this development as it could lead to public speculation or perception of an outside interference,” MACC consultation and corruption prevention advisory panel chairman Datuk Johan Jaaffar said.
That incident renewed calls for the MACC to be given the power to prosecute.
"One of the immediate goals on the anti-corruption commission's agenda would be to reform the MACC Act," said Gabriel.
"They (MACC) were also told that protection for whistle-blowers must also improve. Currently a whistle-blower could only register complaints with the MACC and if he or she took it to the media or any other platform, there would be no protection."
Gabriel told The Malaysian Insider those present at the meeting also expressed doubts over MACC's ability to prosecute "grand corruption".
"Concerns were also raised over the poor public perception towards MACC, especially in investigating big cases.
"We told them there must be political will to effect meaningful changes," Gabriel said.
She added that the MACC also agreed to suggestions that it move towards a more independent  civil service commission, where the tenure of the commissioners be lengthened to allow them more time to investigate cases.
Participants at the dialogue also brought up issues over MACC's investigation methods, saying that it needed to be seriously reviewed and improved.
She said that another area MACC agreed to look into was to broaden the scope of corruption cases it currently had power to investigate, where the consensus was that the scope should be wider.
The next session is expected to be held in two months, where a more concrete action-plan will be drawn up.
Yesterday's dialogue was mooted by C4 as part of its efforts to strengthen public institutions to ensure the corrupt are held accountable.
"We need to engage them (MACC). It is pointless hitting them from the outside all the time," she said of the meeting.
Gabriel had said in the past that more and more people were concerned that public institutions have failed them and major issues remain unresolved, citing prominent cases involving the National Feedlot Corporation, Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ), as well as the controversial Scorpene submarine purchase from France. – February 11, 2014.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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