Under-fire Paul Low insists he still has flames to douse

Paul Low 27

DATUK Paul Low has been lambasted in recent days following his comments about the previous government he served.

Yet, the former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department remains unperturbed by the criticisms, insisting he still has “unfinished business”.

Low joined many others in sending their suggestions to the Committee on Institutional Reforms as the deadline for submissions ends today.

The former Transparency-International Malaysia president shares the contents of his letter with Twentytwo13, highlighting loopholes within the system that he tried to fix and agencies that must be urgently revamped.

“I know many things have been said about me, against me. But I’m not going to be all defensive. I’ve always been for revamps and had aired my views through proper channels during my time in office. I just want to get things done.

I’ve submitted a preliminary outline to the Committee on Institutional Reforms and if they want to meet me, I will explain my views to them.

There was a lack of political will (by the previous government) and many with entrenched interests.

There were bad habits and loopholes within the system. A conducive ecosystem did not exist in a coherent and supportive manner.

Changes cannot take place overnight. Some agencies require time to be empowered.

Institutional reforms are required for several agencies.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission

MACC is currently not satisfactory. It has not complied with key provisions set by the United Nations Convention on Corruption.

MACC must be independent from the executive branch. Its chief commissioner and advisory board should be selected by a bipartisan nominating select committee in Parliament. The selection process should be void of political interference.

It would be good if candidates came for an open public inquiry for their incompetency, values and anything else that would impede them to do their jobs properly.

Right now, MACC is like any other public department. Staff can be transferred out. It will be difficult for MACC personnel to investigate if there is such fear. The core staff must be independent from the civil service.

Dealing with corruption involves technical experts like forensic accountants and personnel for covert operations. MACC must have the flexibility to hire the best.

However, the government must make sure MACC does not abuse power. There must be check and balance. MACC should consider an internal affairs department. Right now they have a panel to investigate conduct, but I don’t think it’s effective because you still need an investigation arm.

MACC’s role in prevention should be re-emphasised. Otherwise they will lose sight of their core focus of being an efficient enforcement agency.

I was disappointed when MACC proposed a consultancy arm to consult companies. This is improper and a conflict of interest. Will you catch those you consult?

This type of prevention violates ethical standards and should not be MACC’s business.

Attorney-General (AG)

The Attorney-General is not independent and is still beholden to the executive branch.

The AG should be appointed by a select committee. The AG should be a competent technocrat and be part of the Cabinet by way of senatorship.

As a minister, the AG is then aware of Cabinet decisions and the circumstances and the background that lead to the requirements of certain laws to be passed or amended. The AG will be the best person to answer in Parliament.

Auditor-General

The auditor-general still reports to the finance minister. This is not right, especially if the finance minister is also the prime minister.

The auditor-general’s department should be an audit commission.

The auditor-general’s appointment should also be made by a bipartisian select committee.

The auditor-general’s department should be in control of all the internal auditors in the ministries.

The best way of prevention is to have real-time audit. Mega projects should be audited while they are being implemented. Now, auditing is done only after the project is completed. Abuse or corruption is only reported after it has taken place.

The auditor-general should be empowered to audit government-linked companies. GLCs have their internal auditors but many of these companies have government-guarantee loans and the government has no means of controlling them.

Ombudsman

The Public Complaints Bureau is under my former ministry. It merely served as a post-office, receiving complaints. I revamped it and managed to get the staff to do a certain degree of investigations and recommendations. But they were done informally.

We must have an ombudsman.

The ombudsman will receive complaints if there is injustice due to the maladministration of the delivery system or if there is a poor delivery of service that causes a big problem.

For example, those who are supposed to get low-cost houses are not getting them. People who have been fighting for their citizenship. It takes a long time to deal with such issues and the victims don’t know what is holding them up. It does breed a lot of unfairness and injustice. The consequence on the victims is huge.

An ombudsman will be able to subpoena any government official to answer or explain issues at hand.

This office exists in many countries. We are the odd one out.

Electoral Commission

It’s a bit more complicated and I’m sure Bersih has its views.

Whistleblowing

It’s not working well as no one trusts the channels. People only have trust in individuals. That’s why you see many prefer whistleblowing to politicians and the matter gets blown up in the press.

Amendments must be made to the Whistleblowing Act. Civil servants must be allowed to whistleblow.