Report: Telekom’s CEO saga raises concerns over Putrajaya’s meddling in GLCs

At the government’s Hari Raya open house yesterday, Dr Mahathir announced that a new CEO for TM has already been appointed, after reports of a delay and alleged stalemate over the appointment. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
At the government’s Hari Raya open house yesterday, Dr Mahathir announced that a new CEO for TM has already been appointed, after reports of a delay and alleged stalemate over the appointment. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — The confusion over the appointment of Telekom Malaysia (TM) Berhad’s chief executive officer (CEO) has raised concerns over Putrajaya’s meddling in the affairs of government-linked companies (GLC), the Straits Times (ST) reported.

TM has been without a permanent CEO since the resignation of Datuk Seri Mohammed Shazalli Ramly, who was also a media adviser to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in June last year.

ST said this has raised concerns of political interference from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in TM’s operations, seeing how the telecommunications provider has not filled the role since after the May 9 general election last year.

TM previously had two acting CEOs in the past one year.

The chairman of TM, Rosli Man, previously refused to confirm acting CEO Imri Mokhtar for a permanent position despite a directive from MoF Inc, which has a golden share in the firm.

“Such concerns will be exacerbated when huge state enterprises like Telekom are operating without a CEO for 12 months and the blame game over the delay is played out in the open among key stakeholders,” political risk consultancy KRA’s strategy director Amir Fareed Rahim told ST.

ST reported that the Institutional Investors Council of Malaysia adviser Lya Rahman was at TM’s annual general meeting when Rosli first told shareholders the Finance Ministry (MOF) had not responded to its recommendation for Imri to become CEO.

However, he then reportedly backtracked, saying that MOF had already given its approval in February, but the PMO stepped in later, to block the appointment.

“Either he (Rosli) was trying to cover up something or, having been caught in a quandary, he (said) something which he shouldn’t. From a corporate governance standpoint, the different accounts are troublesome,” she said.

“Why is the PMO interfering with the decision made by the special shareholder? Are there people in PMO who are more powerful than the PM and minister of finance?” Lya asked.

ST reported anonymous official sources and executives at TM as saying that Rosli has only referred the matter to the PMO and not Dr Mahathir himself.

The report said Dr Mahathir had already been consulted about Imri’s candidacy, and he reportedly did not object to the choice, seeing how other stakeholders had also approved of the latter.

“Khazanah and KKMM were both agreeable,” a top government official reportedly told ST, referring to the sovereign wealth fund, and the Communications and Multimedia Ministry (KKMM) which regulates the industry.

At the government’s Hari Raya open house yesterday, Dr Mahathir announced that a new CEO for TM has already been appointed, after reports of a delay and alleged stalemate over the appointment.

He declined to name person, however, but offered that it was not the acting CEO Imri.