Set up an independent oversight mechanism for GLCs — GLC Reform Group

MAY 2 — The GLC Reform Group, along with the following non-governmental organisations and individuals are deeply concerned with recent developments regarding the appointment of various politicians to lead Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) and statutory bodies.

The emergence of Covid-19 and the ensuing movement control order (MCO) have posed economic and public health challenges of a scale unseen by this country in recent history. During this time, millions in Malaysia have been unable to go to work to earn a livelihood. Even post MCO, many businesses will face grave challenges due to the long hiatus and the new normal of social distancing that will have to be imposed in a post-Covid-19 world.

Government intervention and assistance in these circumstances will be inevitable to ensure that lives and livelihoods are protected and to deal with the economic fallout. We have already seen the government announce large stimulus packages to assist businesses and individuals.

In this climate, the role of the thousands of GLCs under the various ministries and state governments is more crucial than ever to ensure that government aid and stimulus are properly targeted and utilised. These GLCs include large government investment-linked companies such as Khazanah Nasional, PNB, Tabung Haji and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT), and also other government linked companies and statutory bodies such as Maybank, Tenaga, Sime Darby, Petronas, Pharmaniaga, the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) and MARA. Together, these enterprises control and administer billions of ringgit and affect the livelihoods of thousands of employees. It is more important than ever that these assets and resources are not misused and diverted for political gain in bad faith or for improper purposes.

The GLC Reform Group has consistently called for an independent and transparent appointments mechanism for the leadership of GLCs to replace the current system where the ruling government can exercise its power arbitrarily to appoint and dismiss heads of GLCs. We have also called for these bodies to be brought under independent scrutiny, whether through a separate Commission or through Parliament. Professor Terence Gomez has emphasised the importance in identifying how many GLCs exist, in order for there to be proper accountability and transparency.

Unfortunately, other than the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee on major political appointments, these structural reforms were not implemented by the Pakatan Harapan government. Now, under the Perikatan Nasional government, we have seen a slew of dismissals of GLC heads appointed by the previous government, and appointments of politicians in their place. There has not even been an attempt to disguise the fact that these appointments are based on political affiliation. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and PAS Secretary-General Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, openly said that all government members of Parliament (MPs) will be given the responsibility to manage GLCs. He further added that all of them are qualified because “they are MPs.”

Takiyuddin’s statement is worrying as it displays the arbitrary nature of the appointment process for heads of GLCs and Statutory Bodies. It indicates that political affiliation may become the sole criteria in these appointments. It is well-established that appointing politically-linked individuals to head such entities creates room for cronyism, patronage, abuse of power and corruption. GLCs play a crucial part in our economy, especially so in these difficult times. Leadership of GLCs cannot be utilised as political reward or tools to foster loyalty towards the ruling party. In the best of times, such practices would hamper the alleviation of poverty and the equitable allocation of resources. In the worst of times, it would spell economic disaster for our nation and an increase in poverty.

Recommendations

Political appointments are just one of the larger structural issues that plague the management and performance of our GLCs. GLC operations are largely opaque and lack institutional checks and balances. As stated above, we are not even able to ascertain exactly how many GLCs exist. As the government holds these entities in the public’s trust, it is important that that there is proper accountability and transparency in the running of these entities. To restore the public’s confidence in our GLCs, we urge the government to immediately do the following:

  1. Cease the appointment of politicians to positions in GLCs and Statutory Bodies at the federal and state levels until there can be public confidence that appointments are made transparently and post-holders can be held accountable; and
  2. Work with stakeholders (the Opposition, civil society organisations, experts, business leaders) to introduce a set of objective criteria to appoint leaders in GLCs and Statutory Bodies.

In the longer term, the government must commit to the following:

  1. Introduce legislation regarding the management, governance and performance of GLCs. Such legislation should provide for a central registry, access by the public to information on GLCs and their activities;
  2. Institute an independent and transparent appointments mechanism within ministries and state governments for the appointment of heads of GLCs;
  3. Form a Parliamentary Select Committee on GLCs, headed by a member of the Opposition, whose duties include:
  1. Scrutinising the Annual Reports and Financial Reports of GLCs;
  2. Evaluating candidates for top positions in GLCs; and
  3. Summoning heads of GLCs to answer questions that relate to public interest.

Parliament must sit

Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that the Prime Minister decided to postpone Parliament to the 18th of May and more recently, to convene Parliament to sit for only one day. This decision undermines Parliament, an important institution that must play its role in keeping the Executive’s decisions in check, and in this case, to ensure that decisions regarding GLCs are made in the public’s interest.

We therefore call on the government to convene Parliament immediately so that, at the very least, appointments to GLCs can be scrutinised through the Parliamentary Select Committee on Major Public Appointments. A dormant Parliament not only casts doubt over the legitimacy of the current government, it also gives rise to the Executive making unilateral decisions that do not stand up to scrutiny and undermines democracy.

* Written by the GLC Reform Group consisting of:

IDEAS, Aira Azhari ( Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs

C4, Cynthia Gabriel, Sheefa Ahmad (Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism)

PROHAM, Ivy Josiah (The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights)

Ding Jo-Ann

Lydia Chai

Prof Terence Gomez

Lim Wei Jiet

Jaswinder Singh Ahluwalia

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff bin Mohd Kassim

Endorsements:

18 Individuals

  1. Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan
  2. Andrew Khoo
  3. Chin Su Yee
  4. Chong Yee Shan
  5. Eugene Yapp
  6. Fadiah Nadwa Fikri
  7. Jac sm Kee
  8. Johan Saravanamuttu        
  9. Kanda Kumar
  10. Lim Teck Ghee
  11. Mansoor Saat
  12. Dr Mohd Faizal Musa
  13. Mary Shanthi Dairiam
  14. Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin
  15. Roger Chan
  16. Sha Kok Tein
  17. Wong Chin Huat
  18. Zaharom Nain

47 NGO

  1. Agora Society Malaysia
  2. Aliran
  3. All Women Action Society (Awam)
  4. Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim)
  5. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
  6. Bersih 2.0
  7. Beyond Borders Malaysia
  8. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  9. Childline Foundation
  10. Community Action Network (CAN)
  11. EMPOWER Malaysia
  12. ENGAGE
  13. Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG)
  14. G25
  15. Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM)
  16. Gerak (Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia)
  17. JKOASM
  18. JOAS (Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia)
  19. Justice for Sisters
  20. KLSCAH Women Division
  21. KRYSS Network
  22. Lawyer Kamek for Change (LK4C)
  23. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
  24. Local Unionists Network (LUN) Malaysia
  25. Monsoons Malaysia
  26. MTUC Sarawak
  27. Muslim Finance Professionals
  28. MyPJ — Persatuan Peduduk Petaling Jaya
  29. North South Initiative
  30. Our Journey
  31. Penang Forum
  32. Persatuan Pemangkin Daya Masyarakat
  33. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  34. Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia
  35. Pertubuhan Rangkaian Pembangunan Kesinambungan Malaysia (SUSDEN Malaysia)
  36. Projek Wawasan Rakyat (POWR)
  37. Pusat KOMAS
  38. Sarawak Bank Employees Union
  39. SAVE Rivers
  40. Sisters in Islam
  41. Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia)
  42. Tenaganita
  43. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  44. Toy Libraries Malaysia
  45. Women Development Organisation Malaysia
  46. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  47. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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