PETALING JAYA: A civil society group and a think tank have highlighted the troubling state of reforms concerning government-linked companies (GLCs) and procurement methods, a year on after Pakatan Harapan (PH) came into power.
Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) executive director Cynthia Gabriel noted that while there had been some positive reforms in Parliament, GLCs remain one of the most troubling items needing attention.
Cynthia said that Economic Affairs Minister Mohamad Azmin Ali had previously pledged that politicians will no longer have a place on the boards of GLCs and only professionals will be entrusted to run them.
“Our criticisms are based on well-founded research. There have been no reform committees, no reform exercise concerning GLCs.
“The horror is that we find it is still business as usual. They are still appointing political party rank and file to agencies,” she said at a joint press conference with the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) here today.
Cynthia said the PH government appeared to have gone back on its word, stating that while it was a no go for the leaders to be chairman of such agencies, it was all right for the political leaders to sit in as board of directors.
She cited examples such as Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM), the government’s microfinancing agency for poor households, as well as GLCs under the agriculture and agro-based ministry, where “one by one they are heading different departments and agencies”.
Cynthia said there has been no mention of mechanisms to address issues surrounding political appointments in GLCs, with no real efforts to reform this area of governance.
“We would like to emphasise that specific mechanisms ought to be put in place to ensure that political appointments can be effectively stamped out to prevent corruption and abuse of power.
“Any such appointments to the GLC should go through scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) or a special select committee,” she said.
Another promise which has yet to see concrete reforms is on procurement, where they were still waiting for a draft bill for a new law, Cynthia said.
“It is very urgent due to political appointments still taking place. We need a mechanism to deal with conflict of interest and the culture of patronage politics.
“Clear punitive measures must be taken against wrongdoers across the supply chain,” she said.
Cynthia said while the government’s commitment to enacting a Procurement Act was timely and commendable, consultations with civil society organisations must be held immediately to kickstart the process of legislating the new law.
IDEAS coordinator (democracy and governance) Aira Azhari said the think tank, through its “Projek Pantau”, aimed to provide a transparent assessment of the government’s performance in delivering its manifesto promises relating to the economy.
Aira said the report analysed a total of 192 sub-promises, broken down from 23 main promises.
The focus is on promises which relate to the economy, considering all promises under Pillar 1 (Reduce the People’s Burden) and Pillar 3 (Spur Sustainable and Equitable Economic Growth), alongside three promises from Pillar 2 (Institutional and Political Reforms), considered to be critical to the government’s economic agenda, specifically promises relating to GLCs, public procurement and the budget.
“Many of the sub-promises have not been attended to or are in trouble. The government keeps going on about how the business of the government is not to be in business. We need to see how they are putting this into practice.
“We have yet to see any strategic plans. At the same time, PH has also backtracked on political appointments in GLCs. It is quite troubling,” she said.
Aira said real change needs a different approach, noting how the issue of conflict of interest was really stark and worrying.
“We need to get a clearer direction on how the government intends to move forward with that,” she said.
In the same press conference, Cynthia also announced a “pH Litmus Tracker”, which seeks to assess the progress made by the government on institutional and political reforms.
It is a monitoring mechanism that will keep track of the PH government’s performance over the next year, and serve as a repository of articles and updates on the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP), and the progress or the lack of it on its governance, political and institutional reforms.
“It seeks to serve as a reminder for the government to go back to its initial commitments and do the right thing.
“Most importantly, this tracker is meant to be an interactive platform for public feedback and insights, to move towards the Malaysia we all strive and yearn for,” she said.
C4 has also invited public participation to actively use the tracker and provide feedback, which is key to keeping the government in check.
Currently, Cynthia said the government’s performance was “between orange and yellow”, where many things have been mentioned but not yet implemented.
“We are in a better place than we were before, but we can easily slide back into the conditions of pre-May 9, 2018.
“Reforms must take place between one or two years,” she said.
‘Only 6% of promises achieved’
Meanwhile, IDEAS research executive Muhammad Faiz Mohd Zaidi said the government has so far managed to achieve 6% of its promises, which includes aiding the rakyat in reducing their burden and improving the country’s economy.
At the same time, Faiz said 22% of the promises were a work in progress, or was moving forward in a positive manner, such as the distribution of resources to help those in the small and medium industries.
“The government is also working towards tackling corruption, through the NACP, and I see this as something good.
“However, in terms of implementation, it remains a big question, because we do not know what they are going to do. There are no clear strategies,” he said.
Faiz stressed that the work in progress, plus decisions which have been made, need to be better conveyed to the rakyat, to enable them to understand.