Stop using MACC as a political tool, warns Latheefa

MACC chief commissioner Latheefa Koya (right), who was accompanied by Sabah MACC director Sazali Salbi (left), speaking to the media in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Latheefa Koya has warned against using the anti-graft body as a political tool.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Chief Minister Shafie Apdal at his office today, Latheefa said the MACC had long been used as a tool by people with grudges against each other.

She said there were many instances where people had lodged reports just for the sake of getting at each other, adding that a complaint did not necessarily mean there was a case.

“We strive to be professional and we do not want the MACC to be used as a medan (field) for people to report against each other. If we’re going to investigate, the report must have some basis. Sometimes a complaint is just a complaint.

“I urge people to stop using the MACC as a political tool. But if you have a genuine complaint, doesn’t matter who you are, come and give us the information and we will look into it,” said Latheefa.

Latheefa, who is on her first visit to Sabah since taking over the MACC in June, was asked if the anti-graft body would look at all cases, including against government-friendly figures and not just the opposition.

Sabah opposition leader Jeffrey Kitingan had previously urged the MACC to be fair when investigating corruption cases even if it involved leaders of Pakatan Harapan or their allies.

Kitingan hoped that among the cases to be reviewed would be an alleged corruption case involving Shafie, who was hauled in for questioning by the MACC in 2017 – a year before he came to office through the 2018 general election.

The Keningau MP said to ignore the case just because the people involved were allies of the current federal government would be unfair, adding that it would be a farce if investigations were only meant to pressure those in the opposition.

Another case the MACC should reopen, Kitingan said, was an investigation into the RM155 million sale of land to the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda).

In dismissing such a notion, Latheefa said investigations would not stop just because someone had come to power.

“We only stop if the case does not go beyond the initial complaint. You must understand that we have had instances of cases lodged based on political motives.

“We have a lot of situations where people come to report and then hold a press conference just to say ‘I’ve done it’ – so this is the problem,” she said.

Instead of accusing the MACC of not doing its job, she said, the opposition should look at the nature of its complaints.

“Maybe they have to look at the way they have done their complaint. Is it with substance or is it just a complaint? They may have made statements in public or in the media, but have they actually come to us with information?” Latheefa asked.

Meanwhile, she said Shafie had welcomed MACC’s offer of placing its senior officer in his office to counter corruption.

“The state in itself will also have its own integrity unit but we are also offering an additional integrity officer within the CM’s office as a measure for prevention.

“The chief minister welcomed the suggestion. We are ironing out details on the placement.”

Asked about possible placement of integrity officers and the establishment of integrity and governance units at government-linked companies in Sabah, Latheefa said the MACC did not have the authority to do this.

She said, however, the MACC was pushing the states to implement a similar move on their own.

She said as states had more access to resources and powers, the opportunity for corruption was higher at state-level, whether this involved departments, agencies or GLCs.

“In terms of prevention, we are also pushing each state to declare assets. So we’ve also reminded the state authorities to start declaration of assets by state assemblymen. These are all preventive measures, which will be more effective than mere arrests or sending people to jail,” Latheefa said.

On high-profile graft cases in Sabah, she said the MACC was looking into a number of cases.

“We definitely have those types of cases in Sabah but we will let you know when we are ready to inform (about the findings).”