From Arnold James

Institutions are created by governments to ensure that there is transparency and fairness in the intended outcome. I know I am generalising this statement but I am setting the stage for why institutions are created. Governments have a goal, and we (the institution and the people) want transparency in achieving it.

For some institutions today, when there is a change in leadership, the tone of the organisation changes, which can include how certain aspects of the institution are enforced. This, of course, causes uncertainty and impacts the organisations’ implementation of objectives and strategies.

Let’s take a look at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). There is clearly a trial by media going on. Reportedly, the MACC chief purchased some shares in public-listed companies seven years ago, before his current appointment.

There are a couple of issues that need to be looked at: Were there adequate checks of his background before he was appointed as MACC chief? Is there a statute of limitations on his activity previously, which may or may not excuse him for purchasing the shares? Is it against the law that his brother is a businessman and is in partnership with a previous MACC chief’s son?

We then move to the various committees within MACC. What are the terms of reference for all the committees within MACC? Is there a committee that deals with staff complaints (even if it is against the chief) or is it within the government machinery? What is the process for reporting any concerns for committee members within these committees?

We then move to the timeliness of the accusation. One question, looking at this trial by media: why now? Surely this has been available for review for a long time.

In fact, the current chief was appointed in March 2020, so we are looking at almost 21 months, not quite two years. Is the timing of this media exposé something that needs to also be considered?

There is also outrage from some that the whistleblower shouldn’t be sued or penalised. Let’s be clear. The Whistleblower Act covers those who are within the organisation.

Why is it not allowed for someone in public office to defend themselves? Are all public officials guilty before due process? Surely, as proponents of governance, you would want transparency in the due process? Why the impending urgency?

There have been cases abroad where the authorities viewed that certain issues need to be settled behind closed doors through proper channels for the sake of public stability.

Like it or not, sometimes, we need steady due process to take place and not just outrage and noise, without clarity of what has happened. And of course, the best place is in the court of law. Both sides have the opportunity to present their cases.

And although everyone is screaming about various breaches in the regulatory rules, you need to know that there are avenues for declaration, and that rules allow individuals to operate a CDS account for another individual. This is permissible. It isn’t against the law. There are also avenues that allow for recusing oneself from a discussion or an investigation.

This happens all the time in the real world. This is how you resolve conflicts of interest. You just have to recuse yourself, and let the rest of the institution or the members of the board make an independent decision.

The biggest concern should be not the share purchase seven years ago, or if the right forms were filled out, but that institutions should be able to fulfil their objectives regardless of who is in charge.

The processes of the MACC should continue, and the institution as a whole should be allowed to do its job. Delaying a case, or not allowing the team at MACC to do what they are tasked to do, is far more a worry than share purchases (which is allowable assuming declaration was done).

Arnold James is an FMT reader.

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