KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) is deeply concerned with the statement issued by the MACC Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB) Chairman Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang today. 

In our view, the statement may not fully address public concerns pertaining to the integrity of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). 
The statement issued by Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang was in reference to previous allegations made by Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez regarding the integrity of ACAB, specifically disturbing allegations regarding the “nexus between business and law enforcement” and a “conflict of interest” situation between MACC Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Azam Bin Baki and his alleged extensive ownership of corporate stock.

While we welcome the fact that the ACAB finally responded to public calls for action by holding a special meeting on 24 November 2021, we are concerned with the fact that the decision made to absolve the MACC Chief Commissioner was based on a single meeting, without a thorough investigation. 
In our view, if such a conclusion is merely based on the explanation of Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Azam Baki, then ACAB has not carried out their duties properly and this is not an exemplary move by an organisation that is the primary body tasked to oversee the MACC.

We also regret the delay in announcing the results of the meeting to the public immediately after it took place. 
Had the ACAB held the press conference immediately after the special meeting, instead of waiting for more than a month, the public outcry on this matter could have been avoided.

IDEAS calls for the ACAB to transparently elaborate upon the process through which this conclusion was reached. 
As well, it is important for the body to disclose which government policy or code of conduct they have relied on in clearing the MACC Chairman of any wrongdoing. 
More importantly, the ACAB should explain to the public whether Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Azam has satisfied the criteria on asset declaration based on the government circular titled ‘Surat Pekeliling Perkhidmatan 2 Tahun 2002 (Pemilikan dan Perisytiharan Harta oleh Pegawai Awam)’, which requires civil servants to declare their assets.  

As argued by IDEAS CEO Tricia Yeoh, “The absence of a comprehensive explanation as to how the decision was made, done transparently, will erode the public’s trust in MACC as a critical institution for combating corruption in the country. 
We view such an explanation as critical to maintaining MACC’s credibility as an  independent institution that can effectively combat corruption in Malaysia. Parliamentary oversight over MACC is even more imperative than ever.
In addition, it is time the government introduces clear conflict of interest laws and regulations for all public servants with regards to assets they are allowed to own. 
There are also legitimate questions being raised as to the legality of the share purchase, which must be answered.”

As IDEAS notes, the ACAB and four other external bodies are expected to operate as mechanisms of check and balance for the MACC. 
These include the Special Committee on Corruption, Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, Complaints Committee, Consultation & Corruption Prevention Panel, and the Operations Review Panel.  

IDEAS argues that this is an opportunity for these  bodies to show that they are doing their best to provide mechanisms of check and balance for the MACC.  

Concluding, Yeoh stated, “As a critical institution that upholds integrity in the nation, it is essential that the MACC and its oversight bodies embody  the highest standards. 
As such, the oversight bodies tasked to provide accountability over the commission must consider themselves the bastions of transparency. Even the slightest delay in acting on a complaint can sway public opinion.
IDEAS looks forward to more  transparency in regards to this matter, and calls for more information to be communicated transparently to the public.”