PUTRAJAYA: The government will discuss with the Election Commission (EC) on the restriction on Cabinet ministers to campaign during working hours, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said the restriction seemed to provide an opportunity for unemployed leaders of the opposition parties to campaign round the clock.

“This means that during working hours, they have to be in the office, cannot campaign, and even after office, the ministers are still working. They work until 10pm,“ he said after chairing a meeting of the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption (JKKMAR) here today.

Mahathir said during the Cameron Highlands by-election last year, he was also not allowed to use government facilities, including car and aeroplane.

“When I campaigned in the Cameron Highlands by-election, I had to rent a private helicopter to go there and had to bring my private car to take me from the airport to the place,“ he added.

In October last year, EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun reminded Cabinet ministers and politicians with government posts against campaigning in the Port Dickson by-election during working hours.

Azhar also said Cabinet ministers should also not use government assets or facilities for campaigning purposes.

Meanwhile, Mahathir said today’s JKKMAR meeting discussed several initiatives under the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP), which included reforms to the election system and proposals by the Committee on Institutional Reforms (IRC) on the EC.

“We find that in elections, many untoward incidents happened, such as intentionally delaying the time to announce the government’s defeat (as happened in the 14th general election). The EC will look into this so that it will not happen again,“ he added.

He said the EC was now in the process of “cleansing” the data in the electoral roll through a strategic cooperation with Bank Negara, banking institutions, Energy Commission, National Water Service Commission, telecommunication and utility companies.

Apart from that, Mahathir said JKKMAR also decided on a strong and effective mechanism to be worked out for the process of issuing permits and licences at the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry.

This follows several issues highlighted by the ministry which involved mechanisms in the process of issuing permits and licences for imported agricultural produce, notably abuse of quota approval, leakages, food security and enforcement capabilities.

Mahathir said the meeting also agreed in principle for all government projects to be implemented only with the advice and after assessment by technical agencies such as the Public Works Department.

He said this was to ensure transparency and accountability in the project implementation.

To enhance integrity of individuals appointed as chairmen, chief executive officers and members of the board of directors of government-linked companies (GLCs), he said, JKKMAR agreed for the screening process to be improved.

Mahathir said several elements should be included, such as screening by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, bankruptcy status with the Department of Insolvency and involvement in any companies.

The individuals concerned should also declare if there are family members working in companies or are involved in any acquisition involving GLCs, as well as their background and academic qualification, he added. — Bernama