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Friday, July 31, 2015

Civil society wants security of tenure for MACC chief

Director of C4 Cynthia Gabriel says among the reforms proposed was for the chairman of the anti-graft agency to be a constitutional appointee with security of tenure, akin to a federal court judge. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, July 31, 2015.Director of C4 Cynthia Gabriel says among the reforms proposed was for the chairman of the anti-graft agency to be a constitutional appointee with security of tenure, akin to a federal court judge. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, July 31, 2015.The Malaysian Bar and civil society groups have proposed reforms for the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to ensure security of tenure for its chairman, among other steps to make it independent of the executive.
Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism director (C4) Cynthia Gabriel said among the reforms proposed was for the chairman of the anti-graft agency to be a constitutional appointee with security of tenure, akin to a federal court judge.
The constitution would then govern any changes to such an appointment or dismissal.
Her comments follow the sudden change in Attorney-General (A-G) in the midst of an investigation into debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Speaking at the same press conference, Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru said another proposed reform was a provision that would allow another commissioner to take up the chairman's duties in the event the position was vacated.
The Bar and civil society groups today proposed reforms to the MACC and suggested that a new independent commission be given full autonomy and powers over anti-corruption policies, practices and directives, recruitment and discipline of officers and powers of oversight and supervision.
The new commission should also comprise independent commissioners to be voted in by Parliament, with at least 40% of them from civil society.
Thiru said that the reforms suggested have already been shared with MACC and added that they were received positively.
He said MACC was particularly concerned about the recruitment of skilled personnel to work on the operational side.
"Their concern is that those staffed in MACC are really those who are employed from the public services. Without casting any aspersions or any disrespect, the difficulty is when you speak about corruption, you need specific skills, knowledge and experience, so the commission needs to seek out the right person in terms of human resources to investigate corruption.
"For instance if you take corruption that involves complex fraud, you need somebody with forensic audit experience," Thiru said.
He added the reforms would give the new commission the autonomy to employ the right people to do the job.
On the ongoing complaint that MACC lacked bite given that they did not have powers to prosecute, Thiru said before looking at finer details such as prosecution powers,  what needed to be achieved first was to ensure the independence of the commission from the executive.
He added that one persistent area of concern was that in Malaysia, the Attorney-General's Chambers and the office of the public prosecutor are fused.
He said in the UK and Hong Kong, these offices were separate, where the A-G, usually a political appointment, serves as an adviser to the government while the public prosecutor is the person vested with  the function to proffer charges.
"That is a long-term reform we should look at, but now, we need to deal with the structural change into how the MACC functions, we need to vest them with independence first," he said.
He added that the reforms proposed were to ensure a holistic treatment to the scourge of corruption through a viable constitutional and legislative framework.
"We hold the view that MACC's limited success in its attempts to eradicate corruption in Malaysia is a result of corruption not having been addressed in a comprehensive and consistent manner," Thiru added.
- TMI

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