G25 wants more parliamentary scrutiny to keep Putrajaya, MPs in check

Reporters waiting outside 1Malaysia Development Berhad's office, in Kuala Lumpur, July 8, 2015. — Picture by Ida Lim
Reporters waiting outside 1Malaysia Development Berhad's office, in Kuala Lumpur, July 8, 2015. — Picture by Ida Lim

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 – Pro-moderation group G25 said today that Parliament should carry out its oversight duties more frequently to ensure the country’s leaders and federal lawmakers are held accountable for their actions in both their public and private lives.

The group comprising retired Malay civil servants suggested the formation of more parliamentary select committees (PSC) for this purpose, saying the current system of merely raising questions and debating issues in the House was insufficient to safeguard public interest and prevent abuse of power.

The Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) role as an oversight body appears limited as well, the group added, noting that the panel’s investigative powers are generally confined to reports on financial management.

“We always note with dismay from the reports that ministers who might have misused their powers in the decision making process are not called upon to testify on the scandals in which they are either involved in or held responsible,” G25 said in a statement.

“After more than 58 years of independence, this participatory approach by Parliament overseeing and monitoring the ministries and departments through Parliamentary Select Committees is timely.

“For instance, the existence of a Select Committee on Malaysia’s External Debt could have avoided the 1MDB fall-out as questions on its foreign currency debt could have prompted a more prudent financial operation of the company,” they added, referring to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad controversy.

The group said PSCs should be formed on ministerial portfolios in sectors like finance and economic management, law and order, defence and security, education, health and transport, as well as to deal with sensitive matters involving race relations and interfaith issues.

The group said MPs, as elected representatives, should use their positions in the House more effectively by becoming watchdogs to ensure public interests are upheld and that the ministries and all government departments are fully accountable on financial management and how budgetary allocations are spent.

“In a parliamentary democracy, as the people have given their trust to the political leaders, the latter in turn, must honour this public trust and must ensure good governance, transparency and accountability by all levels of government,” G25 said.

The group said Order 81 of Parliament’s Standing Orders already empowers the Dewan Rakyat to establish special PSCs to deliberate on matters determined by the House.

G25 said under the order, members of the PSC are nominated by the Committee of Selection, but have the power to elect its own chairman. The PSC also has the power to compel any person to appear before it and to ask for documents and papers to be produced before it, the group added.

G25 also suggested that the PSCs be allowed to recruit its own full-time salaried staff to assist in the preparation of researched reports and questions that the committee should pose during hearings with witnesses.

“The select committee system is the best way for the Government to be transparent and be accountable and maintain its reputation. It is, therefore, in the interest of the Government to set up Parliamentary Select Committees to better govern the country,” the group said.

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