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IPOH, July 8 — Ten reforms will be implemented in the Perak state legislative assembly to improve its integrity and transparency, newly-elected Speaker Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham said today.
The reforms are set to improve the performance and accountability of the state assembly, and they will be implemented “as soon as possible”.
Under the new reforms, Ngeh said reporters will be allowed back into the assembly hall, instead of being placed in a gallery one floor above the assembly.
“It needs to be properly organised because we have space constraints, but each media agency should have representatives inside the hall,” Ngeh said during an exclusive interview with Malay Mail.
“This will allow them free access to provide full coverage. Another related reform will see us providing a ‘live’ online feed of the assembly sitting, so the public can watch.”
The reforms will also see the state assembly officially recognising the position of state Opposition leader — as distinct from the previous “de facto” Opposition leaders.
The official Opposition leader will also be given an assistant and a room with all the facilities necessary for him or her to carry out his or her duties.
The Opposition leader, Ngeh said, would also be appointed as chairman of the assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to provide a check and balance for the government of the day.
However, he said this particular reform will only be implemented in the next two to three years due to an important caveat.
“Now is the time for the new assembly to check on the previous administration. If the Opposition leader [who was in power before] leads the PAC now, he may not want to call any meetings!” he said.
“This would defeat the purpose of the PAC,” added the Beruas MP.
Similarly, Ngeh said the state will also be creating three new select committees to promote accountability among three sections of government that were “prone to abuse of power” — the Land and Mines office, local government and government-linked companies.
“We want these committees to be incorporated into the standing orders, so any time something is amiss, the state assembly can call up the necessary individuals,” he said.
Other transparency-related reforms include passing a Freedom of Information Enactment and the creation of a Credibility, Accountancy, and Transparency Committee.
Some of the other reforms dealt with improving the quality of the debates in the assembly, including the appointment of an appropriately-qualified research officer for each state assemblyman.
Ngeh said this will allow the debates to be more substantive and fact-driven, which is vital given the importance of the issues debated in the assembly.
“When large projects are announced in a certain place, many people rush to invest. But if the projects fall through, the people are misled and they lose faith in the government,” Ngeh said.
“To avoid this, the issues and ideas brought up in the assembly must be feasible and based on research and statistics.”
In the same vein, Ngeh said he wanted all questions submitted during state assemblies to be answered in written form, even if there wasn’t enough time to respond during the question-and-answer session.
While admitting that many questions went unanswered due to time constraints, Ngeh said the assemblymen need answers so they can help their constituents.
Ngeh added that the reforms will also see the state assembly library opened full-time, instead of only during state assembly sittings.