Anti-graft panel suggests law to halt sacking of key enforcement officials

Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption director-general Abu Kassim Mohamed

PETALING JAYA: The National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC) is urging the tightening of laws to ensure the executive cannot sack key enforcement officials when under investigation.

GIACC director-general Abu Kassim Mohamed pointed out that in 2015, Najib Razak, who was then prime minister, had in one swoop purged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief, attorney-general (AG), police Special Branch chief and four ministers who had questioned him about his involvement in the 1MDB scandal.

“We diagnosed that as one of the key issues.

“We are looking into amending the constitution so that in the future, appointments of very important positions in the country like the AG, the MACC chief and the auditor-general are done by a parliamentary select committee,” Abu Kassim told the South China Morning Post in an interview.

He also spoke to the Hong Kong-based newspaper about other proposals to curb corruption in the country.

Another proposal is to split the role of the chief prosecutor and the AG. Currently, the AG serves as both the government’s chief legal adviser and the country’s number one prosecutor.

“There can be a little conflict of interest here. The prosecutor-general must be able to focus purely on his prosecutorial duties,” Abu Kassim said.

A feasibility study on the proposal to carve out the AG’s prosecutorial powers is expected to be tabled to a Cabinet committee later this year.

Abu Kassim also spoke of legislative reforms for political donations as there are no set guidelines monitoring this at the moment.

In the midst of the 1MDB scandal, Najib had claimed the nearly US$1 billion found in his personal bank accounts was a political donation from the Saudi royal family.

The former MACC head was pleased that recent improvements in key governance and anti-corruption rankings had resulted in a five-notch climb in the Rule of Law Index by the World Justice Project.

He told the daily this was a testament to the progress the new Pakatan Harapan administration has made in fixing the damage inflicted on the nation’s reputation by the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.

Najib had denied any wrongdoing in the scandal which the government says resulted in the plundering of more than US$4.5 billion between 2009 and 2014.

He is currently facing trial for 42 criminal charges.

Abu Kassim said the new leadership had taken a strong stance against corruption.

He said the focus was now on the civil service, where political leaders say some “bad apples” loyal to the previous administration continue with old habits.

One of the proposals of the GIACC is a new law specifically targeting high-ranking officials and politicians.

“If you abuse your power and cost losses to the government, or you use your power for personal gain, you need to be dealt with through a law targeted against that,” Abu Kassim said.