Building A New Malaysia | Institutional Reforms |  

Mandatory Asset Declaration for Pakatan’s Parliamentarians

Posted on September 29, 2018

 

In May, the raid on former Prime Minister’s Najib’s luxury residences was a shocking eye-opener for all Malaysians and international onlookers.  The world watched in disbelief the seized boxes of cash and jewellery worth millions carted away by the authorities.  Any reasonable mind would question, how is it possible that a public officer and the former first family can afford such a life of luxury?  Naturally, the following question would be, how much of it was looted from the country’s coffer during his ten-year tenure as the head of state.


Pledged to uproot corruption in the government and starting off on a clean slate, the new federal announced that it is now mandatory and not just obligatory for Cabinet members and also Pakatan’s Members of Parliament(MP) to declare their asset worth. Several State Governments had also followed suit in requiring their state Exco members to declare their wealth.

 

Who needs to declare?

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir announced that all members of the administration, including the Prime Minister and his deputy, all ministers and their deputies and political secretaries would be required to adhere to this new policy. He later extended this new rule to all Pakatan Harapan (PH) parliamentarians.  


The new policy states that both direct and indirect asset ownership, including those held in proxy on their behalf, must be made known.  Assets owned by close family members must also be listed in the declaration.  MPs are given three months after taking the corruption-free pledge (IBR) to submit their declaration.  

Now it is mandatory and not just a requirement
The parliamentarian Code of Ethics was reviewed by the Cabinet’s Special Committee on Anti-Corruption (JKKMAR) and amended to make it mandatory for parliamentarians to declare their assets. Prior to the amendment, members of parliament were required to, but not legally bound to declare their wealth every two years to the prime minister through the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).  Parliamentarians in the position of power namely the ministers, deputy ministers, special officers to ministers and other officials were required to make the declaration on a yearly basis. As for civil servants and government officials who were also required to declare their assets, it is not clear if any amendment has been made to make it compulsory for them to declare their assets.  

 

Public access and new information keeper
In the past, access to the information collected was limited. Only the Prime Minister, who keeps the information, is privy to the asset worth of his cabinet members. In efforts to promote accountability, the new PH government has now appointed the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC) as the custodian to safe keep the information and a copy will be passed on to The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).  By allowing more parties, especially by the relevant agencies responsible for the prevention of corruption, to access the information, makes it more difficult for the PM to conceal his own wrongdoings and also that of his administration if any.  
Taking it a step further, the MACC announced that it will make the information public on its official portal starting October 2018.   

How can the declaration of assets help fight corruption?
Ministers, their deputies and also members of parliament are required to declare their assets not just once, but yearly during their mandated tenure.  The initial declaration sets the benchmark of their asset worth. Should future declarations exceeds the reasonable level of wealth based on their earning capacity, red flags will be raised.   
In any case, if this requirement is strictly enforced, politicians will be more cautious should they be tempted to partake in corruption practices as the authorities will be on the lookout for any abnormal cumulation in their assets worth.  
This preventive measure should greatly promote better governance and hopefully restore the public’s confidence in the government.


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