Five independent monitoring panels keep a watchful eye on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to ensure check and balance.
KUALA LUMPUR: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has recognised the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as an independent entity in fighting graft.
Full report : MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed (third from left) presenting the 2013 annual reports by MACC and the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board to Parliamentary Special Committee on Corruption chairman Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang (centre) on Aug 12. Present were (from left) committee members Dr Tan Seng Giaw, Datuk Irmohizam Ibrahim, Datuk Doris Sophia Brodi, Datuk Noraini Ahmad and Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman.
Parliamentary Special Committee on Corruption chairman Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang says the UNODC, in its report released on May 2013, deemed the MACC as one of five international bodies renowned for their check and balance capabilities.
“The MACC’s achievements, especially in investigations, are internationally accepted,” Abu Zahar says in an interview with The Star.
The Global Competitiveness Report 2014/15 released last month also commended Malaysia’s performance in curbing corruption.
“These two examples prove that the MACC, as the sole entity against corruption, has fulfilled its duties in an independent manner,” he says.
The current structure of the MACC, according to Abu Zahar, is to be independent, neutral, open and transparent in investigating any case involving corruption.
“In my opinion, the perception of the people must change after the introduction of the MACC Act in 2009. It is not fair to compare the effectiveness of the MACC to when it was still known as the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). It can be said that the organisational structure of the agency then was decided by the Government prior to 2009.
“However, after MACC was formed, it has changed significantly. Any corruption case must be investigated in a transparent manner, thus an independent committee was formed to monitor the MACC,” he says.
Abu Zahar, who is Dewan Negara speaker, heads the parliamentary committee which comprises Members of Parliament from Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.
Its members are Senator Datuk Doris Sophia Anak Brodi (BN), Dr Tan Seng Giaw (MP for Kepong, PR), Datuk Irmohizam Ibrahim (MP for Kuala Selangor, BN), Datuk Fauzi Abd Rahman (MP for Indera Mahkota, PR), Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan (MP for Kota Baru, PR) and Datuk Noraini Ahmad (MP for Parit Sulong, BN).
“We have representatives from the Government and the Opposition, appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. We are above politics. Our mission is to carry out our duties as stated in the MACC Act.
“MACC is also the only anti-corruption commission in the world which is monitored by five independent panels,” he says.
Besides the parliamentary committee, the other bodies monitoring the MACC are the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board; Operations Review Panel; Complaints Committee; and Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel.
“One of our duties is to increase awareness of the existence of these independent bodies tasked with gauging the effectiveness and direction of the MACC, towards being truly independent and neutral in the war against corruption,” he says.
On the Whistleblower Act and the Witness Protection Act, Abu Zahar says the public should come forward whenever they encounter any element of corruption.
“With these Acts in place, the public should have no fear about giving information to MACC. Everyone must play his/her part so that corruption is a thing of the past. There are enactments that protect people who provide information to MACC,” he assures.
On doubts by certain parties over MACC, Abu Zahar says it is inevitable.
“Society has not really understood the MACC and its functions, which are totally different from the pre-2009 era.
“Therefore, we need to spread more awareness at various sectors, among the various communities, NGOs and political parties, We must let the rakyat know what the present role of the MACC is,” he says.
On allegations of selective investigation, Abu Zahar says: “As soon as all of us were appointed to the committee, I asked all of the members: Are you with me or not with me?
“As far as I am concerned, there is no compromise. We have been given a duty and responsibility, which we have to carry out to the best of our abilities. We are here to benefit the rakyat.
“Corruption should be tackled by every party. Otherwise, it will become a plague that can destroy society,” says Abu Zahar, who has headed the committee since last year.
He calls on those who allege that the MACC practises selective investigation to come forward and lodge a complaint with the independent monitoring bodies.
“My message to them is simple: Please come forward to us. You don’t have to go to the same officers. We have five panels.
“If the committee is satisfied that the complaint has merit, we shall advise the MACC to re-evaluate the case,” he says.
In the past, the Operations Review Panel has recommended that a case be re-opened after the Attorney-General’s office found it insufficient for prosecution.
Since 2009, the Operations Review Panel which is recognised by the UNODC has pushed for 52 cases to be re-opened and eight of those have gone to court.
“Cases have been re-opened, so the people should not think that the MACC is not independent,” he says.
Abu Zahar reveals that the MACC has handled more than 50 high-profile cases in the past five years.
“Tell me about any specific case which the MACC did not investigate. This shows that the MACC has investigated all cases.
“If it is a 50-50 case, then we may not take any chance. I learnt that our investigation has 90% of the evidence required. All cases need solid evidence,” he says.
Committed to the cause
Abu Zahar says he is prepared to resign as committee chairman if there is selective prosecution.
“I’m committed to this cause and I mean it. It is not for the sake of getting positions or the prestige. It is to fulfil the duties entrusted to us,” he says.
While conceding that corruption has been politicised, Abu Zahar emphasises that the MACC has acted transparently.
“We have been prudent. If the evidence and witnesses are sufficient, then we will act on it. I am prepared to resign if there is no action. Why I should be here if I can’t perform?”
Abu Zahar hopes that society as a whole would change its perception towards the MACC.
“Give it a chance to prove itself. Only with the cooperation from all, especially therakyat, that we can achieve a harmonious Malaysia that is free of corruption for future generations,” he says.
Corruption has been the main issue brought up by political parties but Abu Zahar reminds everyone that he/she should not use baseless allegations to tarnish a person’s reputation.
“However, MACC will still fulfil its responsibilities. The committee as an independent body will monitor and advise,” he says.
To ensure that the independence and transparency of MACC prevails, Abu Zahar calls for current laws to be amended.
“The amendments should involve elements connected to the appointment of the chief commissioner and the establishment of the service commission especially for the MACC.
“If there is a weakness in a certain law, we should improve it. For example, the appointment of a chief commissioner could be conducted similar to the appointment of judges, requiring a two-third majority in Parliament,” he says.
In closing, Abu Zahar urges those who have a negative perception of the MACC to talk to the independent monitoring panels.
“If you are still not convinced that the MACC is above board, bring us proof. As I have said before, we will do all that we can to ensure that the MACC is genuine,” he says. FARIK ZOLKEPLI The STAR Home News Nation 30 September 2014