24 September 2018

New law to govern ministers

 New law to govern ministers
KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajay is pushing for specific legal provisions that will minimise the exposure of those holding public office to corruption and abuse of power. The plan is to lump politicians with civil servants, and have them governed under a proposed law — Public Officials Misconduct Act.

An exhaustive, ongoing exercise that includes tweaking existing laws, is being done to expand the existing legal requirements for civil servants to declare gifts given to them to cover ministers, their deputies, and political secretaries.

Sources told the New Straits Times that the plan is to hold the group (civil servants and politicians) accountable for bad decisions that could cause loss of government funds.

“The government is drafting a law that will allow punitive action against officials who cause leakages and wastage of government funds,” the source said, adding that under the proposed law, anyone involved in the decision-making process could be prosecuted for their bad judgment.

The NST learned that the plan to hold the group accountable would first have to be sanctioned by the cabinet.

It is learnt that the newly-established National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC) is expected to brief ministers and deputy ministers.

Yesterday, GIACC joined the second meeting of the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption, where this proposal was heard. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad chaired the meeting.

If the expansion of the law covers politicians, not only will they be required to declare gifts valued above RM500, declaring their assets will also be a legal requirement.

Recently, the issue was debated when former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak maintained that RM1.1 billion worth of cash and items that police seized last month in the course of the 1MDB investigation were mostly gifts and that legally, he was not compelled to declare them.

Ambiguity in definitions concerning this matter is keeping the debate going.

Policymakers are hoping to settle this issue with the proposed provision.

Under the Federal Constitution and Interpretation Act 1967, “public office” is defined as an office in “public services”.

A “public officer” is someone “lawfully holding, acting in or exercising the function of a public service”.

“The provision actually exists, but it is vague. People tend to maneuver around it to escape punishment. We want to make it clear and ensure accountability,” the sources said.

It is learnt that GIACC had studied the “no-gift” provision in the Penang Public Administration Code of Ethics. -NST Online


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