Anti-corruption group calls for ombudsman on govt

16 Apr 2019 / 18:04 H.

GEORGE TOWN: The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) has called for the setting up of an office of the ombudsman to keep an eye on the government and its conduct.

It said this was necessary to ensure transparency and accountability in the wake of several scandals involving top officials in the previous administration.

C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel said the ombudsman had to be independent and be authorised to investigate institutions under the government’s care.

“It should also function as an independent complaints commission to oversee the performance of government-linked companies (GLCs) and statutory bodies,“ she said in a press statement.

Gabriel said the findings in the white paper on the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) that was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat last week had raised a lot of concerns.

“Having sifted through the findings, C4 is of the view that a restructuring is necessary in Felda,“ she said. “The non-performing assets must be disposed of, corporate governance must be strengthened and there must be a guarantee that the welfare aid for Felda settlers be maintained.”

Felda reported losses amounting to RM4.9 billion as of 2017. By then, its liabilities had risen to RM14.4 billion. “This is a staggering amount, and it points to a multifold inadequacy in corporate governance and outright malfeasance,“ Gabriel said.

She also took note of an “outrageous” piece of information disclosed in Parliament that political parties were receiving financing amounting to RM2.7 billion from Felda. “The incidence of conflict of interest is stinging,“ she said.

Apart from the need to act against the culprits, C4 has recommended that Felda be monitored by a parliamentary select committee to supervise its rehabilitation.

“The settlers must be given greater participation in its decision-making process. Their representation on the Felda board and its companies must be increased,“ Gabriel said.

She also stressed that GLCs stopped serving as vehicles for political financing to reflect new legislation on the issue.

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