MACC board wants civil servants to declare assets

As published in today's Malay Mail

By Haresh Deol

KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory board admits the anti-graft body tends to “go in with a bang only to end in a whimper”. 

It is also said sections in the MACC Act 2009 must be revised to compel those suspected of corrupt practices, including civil servants, to declare their assets and to curb abuse of power.

The board’s chairman, Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim, said MACC had followed up on its major crackdowns but was done at a “lower profile”.

“It’s not just us but even the men in MACC feel the same. We go in with a bang only to end in a whimper. Public perception is something we need to work on,” he said after the board’s meeting yesterday.

“Investigations are on-going but we need to keep the public informed. We are all interested in the outcome (of the cases).”

He was referring to MACC’s recent series of crackdowns. 

The commission arrested more than 10 Royal Malaysian Customs Department officials, including a northern state director, over their alleged links with alcohol and tobacco smuggling activities September last year. In December, it probed more than a dozen top Pahang officials over the landslides in the Cameron Highlands. 

Last week, MACC raided 49 locations in Sarawak believed to be involved in illegal logging activities. It also froze bank accounts of a Sarawak assistant minister, totalling RM4 million, following allegations of abuse of power in awarding a government project for the construction of a building in Petra Jaya. 

The board had, during its meeting, urged the government to be serious in addressing suggestions that have been long brought to its attention. 

It said MACC’s hands were tied as it does not have the legal power to compel those whose wealth exceeded their means and those who are suspected of corrupt practices to declare their assets. This included civil servants whose lifestyles do not match their wages.

It said Section 36 of the Act must be amended to ensure these individuals declare their assets. The board also highlighted that amendments must be made to Section 23 of the same Act to ensure civil servants do not manipulate lacunas specifically in awarding tenders, contracts, government projects and awarding ownership of land.

He said the board disagreed with critics who argued MACC were afraid of going after the big fish — mainly politicians and ministers.

“Provided there is sufficient evidence, MACC will go after them. But when it comes to crunch time, those who claim to have evidence will pull out. Without witnesses, MACC cannot do much.”
“As long as members of the public are willing to step forward and help, then we will be able to do more.”

Tunku Aziz argued none of its board members owed the government anything and that they were not afraid to speak up against efforts to combat corruption.

“I wouldn’t be the chairman of this board if it was not independent. MACC ... the government ... they need us more than we need them.”

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