Saturday, December 06, 2008

PM pushing forward with anti-corruption Bill

DEC 5 — On Wednesday morning, just before the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MCAC) Bill is tabled in Parliament, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will meet Barisan Nasional lawmakers and move to kill off any attempt to oppose the legislation.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the Prime Minister will outline the main features of the commission and assure the MPs that there will be enough safeguards in the proposed commission to protect both parties — those who lodge reports and the accused.

There has been some restlessness among some BN MPs over the setting up of a commission which will have more autonomy and bite to tackle corruption in the country. They worry that there could be an explosion of reports and false allegations against politicians by members of the Opposition.

Some of them are also wondering if it is fair to saddle Prime Minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Najib Razak with a body spawned from Abdullah's reform agenda. They were also upset that the Parliament session was lengthened until Dec 18 to debate the MCAC Bill.

It is unclear if the unease by some of the BN MPs would result in them voting against the MCAC Bill or is it a case of sabre-rattling. Still, Abdullah is not taking any chances. Senior Anti-Corruption Agency officials have been briefing editors of the mainstream media on the main features of the commission. The PM also gave an exclusive interview to an English-language daily to update Malaysians on the progress of his reform agenda.

Sources said that there will be several oversight mechanisms under the MCAC. One will be an advisory board, comprising eminent Malaysians. It will function like a board of directors in a corporate set-up. There will also be a committee which draws its members from both Houses of

Parliament; a committee which will hear complaints from those who lodge reports and those who are the target of corruption investigations.

A government official told The Malaysian Insider: 'This mechanism was insisted on by the Cabinet. It wants to make sure that there is transparency for all parties. Those who lodge reports now will be able to know the status of the case while those who believe that they are being vicitimised have recourse now.''

The proposed Commission will also not be allowed to sit on cases indefinitely. The oversight committees have powers to set a time frame for investigations to be completed. One of the complaints against the existing Anti-Corruption Agency is that nothing is heard of for years after the initial blaze of publicity. This situation has led to accusations of cover-ups by the government or incompetency by the ACA.

Under the MCAC Bill, the Commission will have to put forward its report to Parliament annually. As such, the cloak of secrecy which has enveloped all corruption investigations for decades will be lifted, slightly. Not everyone is comfortable with this prospect. - The Malaysian Insider

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