PETALING JAYA: The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) has urged the Perak government to appoint an opposition member to lead the state assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in line with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) manifesto pledge.
It said there are “no two ways” about having an opposition member lead the committee which it added is essential to ensuring checks and balances.
“It is a PH state, they should follow the manifesto,” C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel told FMT.
She was responding to reports that the Perak PAC continues to be led by a member of a ruling party, 10 months after PH wrested power from Barisan Nasional (BN) in the state.
Perak PAC chairman, Malim Nawar assemblyman Leong Cheok Keng, is from DAP, as is his deputy, Keranji assemblyman Chong Zemin.
This recently sparked criticism from Umno’s Kota Tampan assemblyman Saraani Mohamad, who said PH had not kept to its manifesto pledge.
State assembly speaker Ngeh Koo Ham said PAC in Perak is being chaired by a PH representative as it is investigating the scandals of the previous state government. He said it would be counter-productive to have an opposition member lead investigations into colleagues or former colleagues.
Thomas Fann, chairman of electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0, said Ngeh’s explanation was logical but did not address the main issue of why PH had pushed for a PAC chief from the opposition to begin with.
“The reason was so that PAC could check on the government of the day,” he said.
“With PH chairing the state PAC, who is going to check on any abuse by the PH government?”
He said any misconduct or corruption by the previous government could be probed by agencies such as the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Aira Azhari, a senior research executive at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, agreed that PH should appoint an opposition member to lead PAC in the state.
She said there was no reason for this not to be done in the state if it could be done at the parliamentary level.
She also warned against using investigations into alleged scandals by the previous administration as a reason not to honour the spirit of PH’s manifesto pledge.
“PAC is to investigate misconduct by any party, so party affiliation should not impede its investigations. The reason for having an opposition member as chairman is to ensure checks and balances.”
If concerns arise that the opposition chairman is not cooperating or showing impartiality, she said, that person could be swapped with another opposition member.
“PAC is not the sole body for investigating misconduct as reports can also be lodged with the police or MACC,” she added.