Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Najib Lords Over Public Accounts Committee?

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament was one of the items I've been wanting to blog about for a few months now.

The role of the PAC is to scrutinise and monitor the utilisation of funds approved by the parliament for the use by the State. This will include any public entities and organisations, public accounts and any items which the PAC decides as fit for investigation.

The committee comprise of 13 members, of which currently, 5 are from the opposition, roughly reflecting the composition of the Parliament.

I've been appointed to the Committee since sometime in May, and I must say, there has been frequent meetings called to discuss various issues ranging from the issue of subsidies, abuse of VISA-on-arrival, illegal immigrants, performance of Khazanah companies, the Middle-Ring Road II maintenance fiasco etc. Items coming up include the Maybank BII deal, the Department of Registration (JPN) of Sabah (over denial of citizenship issue), the Telekom Malaysia RM12 billion contract and more. Frankly speaking, there are probably more issues than we can practically meet on, thanks to our Government for creating these controversies.

Due to the sensitive nature of these investigations, the independence of the PAC must be protected at all cost. Hence when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said two days ago that "the cabinet had agreed that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) scrutinise the acquisition of the Eurocopter EC725 helicopters to replace the ageing Nuri helicopters", I immediately issued a statement stating that such a statement makes a mockery of Malaysia's parliamentary system.

In addition, on behalf of the PAC, Najib said “the PAC would begin the process as soon as possible”.

As a member of the Parliament's PAC, while we welcome the Deputy Prime Minister's willingness to cooperate with the investigations, I find it a total mockery of the parliamentary process that any scrutiny by the PAC requires the “agreement” of the Cabinet. Worse, it appears as if Datuk Seri Najib had a major say in when the investigations can proceed.

The PAC made the decision to investigate the Eurocopter deal last Wednesday and it does not require the “approval” of the Deputy Prime Minister or his cabinet. The PAC is an independent institution of the Parliament set up to scrutinse the actions of the Government, including its cabinet and hence, any inference of subservience to the Cabinet is will be completely ludicrous and render the PAC incapacitated.

The Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet must respect the independence and integrity of the PAC. They must stop denigrating the Parliament and its institutions to tools of the Executive to achieve their own ends. In addition, they must cooperate fully with the PAC at all times, including if the Deputy Prime Minister himself, or members of his cabinet are called to be queried on various scandals which affects them or their Ministries.
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