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Why the cloak-and-dagger routine?

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Keeping the proceedings of the parliamentary public accounts committee a secret is not the parliamentary way to investigate mismanagement or abuse of public funds says WH Cheng.

First of all, why must members of the public accounts committee (PAC) be gagged and not be allowed to issue any statements pertaining to the committee’s ongoing investigations or hearings on the government’s financial irregularities?

Is the PAC functioning in secrecy or is it some sort of a secret group? Why should all inquiries carried out by the PAC not be made public and why are the people being prevented from knowing its proceedings?

If the leaders of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition keep on insisting that the PAC’s probes into the financial irregularities in the public service and in government-linked-companies should not be disclosed to the people, then we can only assume that they want to cover up the misdeeds and wrongdoings within the government.

No wonder the BN government’s budget deficit is increasing every year and they keep on losing billions of ringgit of public funds to abuse of power, mismanagement and corruption.

Let us talk facts. We, the people, most of us are taxpayers, contribute much of our hard-earned income to the government every year in the form of income tax and GST.

The money that we all remit to the government is for development and the benefit of our people. It goes into public funds and does not belong to anyone in power.

The government is merely entrusted to manage these funds in accordance with the will of the people.

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Therefore, if public funds are mismanaged or abused by corrupt politicians, public officials and their cronies, the investigations into such irregularities should be out in the open because these matters are of public interest.

The PAC is a parliamentary committee.

The PAC is not a cabinet committee for its proceedings to be kept secret. The PAC is established among members of parliament from both sides of the political divide and is a parliamentary committee.

All MPs, be they from the government or the opposition, are elected by the people. As such, any tasks, responsibilities or investigations undertaken by the PAC should be made public.

In fact, when an irregularity within the government is reported, the PAC should summon the minister concerned, officials of the department or agency involved, or the CEO of the GLC involved to an open and public hearing instead of a close-door meeting.

Keeping all the proceedings a secret is not the parliamentary way to investigate any mismanagement or abuse of public funds – unless the ruling BN really has got something to hide from the public.

The other issue here: is the PAC really independent in its functions, responsibilities and decision-making? Are its members really acting based on a parliamentary sense of honour?

What we know today is that BN MPs in the PAC are merely followers who are just following the instructions of their party leaders.

Now, when it comes to investigating the 1MDB, the PAC should also investigate to ascertain if there is criminal element in the way debts were accumulated, why such a scandal had taken place, what procedures were not followed, who did the wrong things, who should be reprimanded, what actions need to be taken, and what kind of preventive measures need to be regulated or implemented once this mess is cleared.

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The PAC should discharge its roles and responsibilities to best serve the people’s interest.

If the PAC continues to function in secrecy – with its members gagged and warned against making any public disclosure and with all its information and proceedings concealed from the public – then it might as well just close shop and let a cabinet committee handle its roles.

There is no point in having a PAC if it is going to be so secretive.

Source: Berita Daily

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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