Can MACC be truly independent?

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COMMENT Hope is again raised for a revived anti-graft commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), every time it undertakes a major operation.

The recent arrest of senior officers amongst 28 others suspected of embezzling over RM115 millions from the RM3.3 billion federal-funded water project of the Sabah Water Department is a case in point.

Yesterday, a secretary-general of a federal ministry were detained for suspected graft where gold bars were seized amounting to RM3 million, together with 150 designer bags and wristwatches.

Those actions are surely commendable. But the expectation of seeing reform is soon dashed when it involves the real ‘powers-that-be’. Why, one may ask?

The answer is plain and simple. It doesn’t take a pundit to answer that. MACC is not truly independent.

The rude awakening happened to the MACC last year when, in the midst of probing the 1MDB scandal and the RM2.6 billion in the private bank account of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, investigating officers were swiftly transferred.

Worse, the police raided the MACC headquarters and confiscated many of its investigation papers. It badly tarnished the image and reputation of the commission, while seriously demoralising the graft-buster management team. The confession of the director of investigation of MACC, after resigning spoke volume.

So can MACC be reformed to be truly independent?

Currently, the MACC comes under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department and from which it also receives funding for its operations. That alone explains why the commission is beholden to the executive. This must end.

Doubtless, the MACC should be an independent entity solely responsible to Parliament instead of the current practice of having to report to the Prime Minister’s Department.

lt has been repeatedly proposed yet fell on the deaf ears of Putrajaya. Aliran’s proposal, to cite but one example, is worthy of serious consideration.

Section 14 of the MACC Act 2009 (Act 694) should be amended to reorganise the Special Committee on Corruption into a full-fledged Parliamentary Select Committee on Anti-Corruption under the aegis of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Its roles must be widened from merely advising and examining, to scrutinising the management and operational activities of the commission.

In other words, the select committee should act as a check-and-balance mechanism to ensure that the MACC adheres to the standard operating procedures agreed upon.

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