SHAH ALAM: With the 13th general election (GE13) over, the Barisan Nasional (BN) is back to its traditional “business”: appointing former top civil servants or party loyalists to positions in government-linked entities.
This is normally done after they have ended their service to the government. But this practice goes against a recommendation of a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory panel.
MACC consultation and prevention panel member Datuk Seri Azman Ujang said the panel had recommended that the government observe a one-year “cooling-off period” before such appointments are made.
The recommendation, made on May 11 this year, is one of three proposals submitted to the federal government to tackle issues of corruption that were used as campaign fodder against the BN in the May 5 polls.
The panel had then stressed that it was “imperative” for the government to take into account all views, criticisms and allegations from various quarters on this issue, despite noting that some of the accusations were based purely on public perception.
In a recent interview, Azman said the proposal was made to prevent any perceived conflict of interest between the appointees and their new positions in these entities, for example leveraging their reputation and contacts to secure tenders.
“A former secretary-general to the Defence Ministry should not, for example, be appointed to a company within the defence industry [within one year of retirement],” he said, adding that the panel’s role is mainly to identify loopholes within the system and offer suggestions to plug the leakages.
Azman, however, noted that the string of recent appointments to government-linked agencies were made largely based on the persons’ “expertise” and expressed confidence in their capabilities to contribute to the organisation.
He said this included retired politicians who did not contest in GE13, presumably to make way for new faces.
“After a few decades of services, these individuals feel that they should be rewarded.
“But on the plus side, the government will also benefit from their experience and expertise, getting a mix of old and new ideas,” he said.
Among the notable appointments post-GE13 were former Johor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Othman as Sime Darby Group chairman; former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Sidek Hassan as Petronas chairman; and former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop as Khazanah Nasional deputy chairman.
Similarly, there are also former Cabinet members appointed to advisory positions related to their last portfolio, for instance former Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen as head of the Malaysian Tourism Board and former Information, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim as the government’s advisor on culture.
Ng’s appointment drew brickbats from quarters who questioned the move announced by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, as it purportedly goes against a decision by MCA to decline all government positions following its dismal showing in GE13.
“There has been no clear-cut evidence against her [Ng]… But from the way she was dropped [as election candidate], the appointment could be seen as a consolation prize for her,” said Azman.
When contacted, three-term Johor Baru MP and chairman of Barisan Nasional Backbencher’s Club Tan Sri Shahrir Samad also defended the appointments, stating that the individuals were chosen in their capacity to assist the organisations based on their expertise.
Rais, for instance, has been the longest-serving member of the Cabinet, having served under five administrations since 1974.
PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar, however, stressed that any appointments made for positions in government-linked bodies must be done according to strict criteria instead of political affiliations.
“These appointments involve individuals entrusted to protect the public’s interest.
“In the case of Tabung Haji or the Employees Providence Fund, not only must the persons be able to manage the funds, they must also have the financial know-how to invest the money in profitable ventures,” he said, in referring to the appointment of Baling MP Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim as the new Tabung Haji chairman.
Abdul Azeez’s appointment also drew criticisms not only from Pakatan Rakyat but also BN, with many questioning his credentials and capability to manage funds totalling some RM35 billion. – theantdaily