The Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Public Appointments can review the appointment of former PKR member Latheefa Koya as the new MACC chief commissioner, according to civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan.
However, Syahredzan (photo, above) said, the review cannot affect the actual appointment itself, even in the case the committee finds the appointment “unsuitable”.
In such a case, he added, the committee could compel Putrajaya to justify its decision.
Taking to Twitter, Syahredzan, who is also political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang, said the function of the parliamentary select committee, is to provide checks and balances to executive action, “not to approve or legitimise executive action”.
“What the major public appointments committee can do is to review Latheefa’s appointment after it has been made, to see whether it is proper and whether she is suitable... it’s a review of government action.
“If, for whatever reason, the committee finds that the appointment is unsuitable, then while it will not affect the appointment itself, it will mean that the government would need to justify its decision,” Syahredzan posted in a series of tweets yesterday.
This comes following the sudden announcement of the replacement of former MACC chief commissioner Mohd Shukri Abdull, who opted for early retirement one year before his contract expiration, with Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa (photo).
While her appointment was praised by NGOs, other quarters questioned it due in part to her political affiliation and that her selection did not first go through the parliamentary special select committee.
Parliament can question witnesses
Syahredzan, in his tweets, echoed the statement by former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram that the select committee has no role to play in actual key public appointments.
He said: “I think there is a major misconception about what those parliamentary committees are supposed to do.
“People seem to think that it means the executive must go to these committees before making a decision, such as a major appointment.
“That's not how it's supposed to work.”
However, Syahredzan said, the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Public Appointments still had the power to compel relevant witnesses to appear before the committee for questioning.
“I believe these committees have the power to compel witnesses to attend. There is nothing to stop them from calling up the chief secretary or even Shukri (photo), to explain why Shukri left or why Latheefa was appointed.
“That’s how legislative oversight is supposed to work.”
Syahredzan said that to him, “going through the committee before an appointment is made is the wrong way to do it”.
Even so, Pakatan Harapan's election manifesto had pledged that key national appointments to agencies, including the MACC, must be approved by a suitable parliamentary committee to reduce the ability of the prime minister to intervene in these important appointments.
In line with this, a bipartisan parliamentary select committee, one of six select committees, was set up on Dec 4 last year to scrutinise candidates appointed to major public positions.
Despite this, several appointments made since Harapan took over the government have bypassed the committee, including that of Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador and Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.
Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Public Appointments chairperson William Leong said that he was not aware of Latheefa's appointment as the MACC chief.
Leong added that Latheefa's resignation from PKR, prior to her taking up the appointment to lead the anti-graft body, would still affect the public perception and trust on the integrity of the MACC.