PUTRAJAYA: Law and institutional reform minister Azalina Othman Said says the government is not always right and must be open to complaints.
She said this was evident in Putrajaya’s push to establish an independent ombudsman system for the people to lodge complaints against ministries and government agencies.
“We want to have an accountable government. One of the elements of accountability is you must allow for complaints,” she said at a press conference here today.
“The problem is, the government of the day isn’t right all the time and the people may be unhappy with certain decisions, processes or maladministration.”
Azalina said her ministry was still “fine tuning” the policies for the Ombudsman Bill and engaging the relevant agencies, NGOs and civil societies, after which it will be brought to the Cabinet.
She aims to table the bill in Parliament in October.
Among the policies included in the bill are ensuring the ombudsman system is independent and that its members will not be allowed to remain in the body for a period exceeding six years.
Azalina said the ombudsman will not be an enforcement agency, but an avenue for the public to lodge complaints related to maladministration and governance.
She also said the ombudsman must produce an annual report that will be tabled and debated in Parliament.
In May 2022, the Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) asked the government to explain the delay in tabling the Ombudsman Bill.
C4 reiterated that the establishment of an ombudsman was vital in eliminating corruption and cronyism in the system and that public complaints against the government could be adequately investigated.
It said Abu Kassim Mohamed, the former director-general of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption, had stated in 2019 that the ombudsman would come into operation in 2020 if the bill was tabled by December 2019.
However, with the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government in February 2020, the plan was delayed and exacerbated by political instability.