Source C4 Center

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced that the previous Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration had allegedly misappropriated tens of billions in ringgit in violation of proper procedure. The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) is horrified at these revelations and demands that investigations are undertaken thoroughly, and transparently and that those found responsible should be swiftly brought to justice.

Prior to this announcement, the previous PN administration led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had been dogged by allegations of misappropriation of up to RM600 billion. Muhyiddin has vehemently denied the allegations, citing them as politically motivated, or that this sum was the result of misattribution to financial schemes that did not actually involve government expenditure such as Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawals and loan moratoriums.

Anwar Ibrahim has since confirmed that the RM600 billion figure was mostly EPF withdrawals and loan moratoriums as stated by Muhyiddin, but that there were still tens of billions spent that pointed towards impropriety. Anwar also indicated that there were several important companies that had family ties to people in politics.

Additionally, matters regarding political financing were raised – Anwar earlier stated that money misappropriated by the previous administration went to “certain parties” for use during the 15th General Elections. This was after claiming that certain parties were receiving funding from gaming companies and that some companies in the gambling industry had a hand in financing elections. Anwar decreed yesterday that the frequency of special lucky draws made annually would be decreased to 8 from 22, as was previously the case during the PN administration.

These allegations, should they be found truthful, constitute grievous abuse of power and abandonment of the mandate to serve the Rakyat by the previous administration. Crucially, this is not merely a matter of principle – if billions were misappropriated for self-enrichment or lost through leakages, that is billions in taxpayers’ money that was deprived of life-saving medical services and welfare programmes. This is especially heinous considering that Malaysians continue to be ravaged by a pandemic that killed thousands and plunged hundreds of thousands more into economic insecurity.

While the Prime Minister has announced that the matter was passed to the relevant authorities and has since provided assurance that investigations are underway, the current administration can and must go further.

Hence, C4 Center makes the following demands:

1. The investigations must take place transparently – owing to the gravity of the situation, it must not take place behind closed doors. The current administration must provide details of the relevant institution that is leading investigations. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), as a bipartisan, independent institution accountable to Parliament, should take the lead on investigations.  Progress reports must be made publicly available and accessible, and given a tentative timeline that outlines when the investigations are expected to be completed and when the findings can be presented to the public, of which must also be tabled in Parliament.

2. Reforms that ensure transparency and accountability in governance must be given urgent priority, specifically enacting Procurement, Political Financing, and Asset Declaration Acts, and also further-reaching institutional checks and balances such as MACC independence and the establishment of an Ombudsman answerable only to Parliament.

The Procurement Act is of particular importance here – no doubt, excessive procurements without tender were able to be made on the basis of an emergency arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. A Procurement Act would serve to outline and delineate the limits in which procurements can be made in possible future emergencies instead of allowing unchecked Executive power to decide arbitrarily.

Likewise, the Political Financing Act carries similar significance here as the previous PN administration was alleged to have received external funding from private entities, thus prioritising the interests of these private entities over the public interest. If left unchecked, the ever-tightening business-political nexus results in state capture, whereby the interests of businesses completely overtake those of society and its people at large.

3. Individuals found responsible for the abuse of power and breach of public duty must be tried in court and if found guilty, serve their sentence without delay. Should these guilty individuals be politicians or people in positions of leadership such as Ministers or Members of Parliament, they should be stripped of their positions and barred from re-entering public office for a certain period of time as decided by the court.

Further to this, the government must also establish Corruption Courts to deal with matters of this nature exclusively composed of judiciary members who are specifically trained in such areas of law. This will accelerate the conclusion of cases which, at present, are needlessly delayed and take years to resolve.