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Election Watch

Barring relatives from tenders, projects

Source: The New Straits Times
Date: 14 August 2012

PUTRAJAYA: RELATIVES and associates of menteris besar and chief ministers may soon be barred from securing projects and tenders from states that the leaders head.

Sources said this proposal would be reflected in the 2012 Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s independent Operations Evaluation Panel’s report that would be submitted to the government soon.

If accepted by the government, the ruling will also apply to other members of the administration, including ministers, deputy ministers, political secretaries and state executive council members. The panel’s proposal is aimed at preventing possible abuse of power by leaders. It will bar their relatives from benefiting from the government, including by taking possession of lands. Under the MACC’s definition, “relatives” include parents, siblings, children, spouses, in-laws and cousins.

It does not include those whom they might not really know personally like a second cousin’s wife or children. It is learnt that the proposal was mooted following findings that there was a loophole in Section 23 of the MACC Act regarding the offence of “using office or position for gratification”.

The act states that any officer of a public body who uses his office or position for any gratification, whether directly or indirectly for himself, his relative or associate, commits an offence.

“The act is clear that if the office-holder finds that his relatives or associates have, for instance, applied for projects and tenders, he would have to declare his ties with them and excuse himself from sitting in meetings or deciding on who gets the benefits.

"The problem is that this part of the law can be  easily circumvented, leading to abuse.

"A menteri besar, knowing full well that his cousin is eyeing a project in his state, can declare and excuse himself from the meeting that decides on the project, but not without reminding the deciding panel that the candidate is his relative.

"What are the chances of the panel members, who are his subordinates, choosing someone else over the MB's cousin?"

Sources told the New Straits Times that MACC would have an uphill battle pursuing such cases as, technically, the office holders would not have contravened the law and would have done what was expected of him by excusing himself.

"MACC had also noted that there were state exco members who had received land for free after applying for it from their menteri besar.

"When the matter becomes merely an ethics issue and there is almost nothing to pin on them legally, it becomes difficult to prosecute," the sources said.

It is learned that if adopted, most likely as a "government procedure", members of the administration will have to draw up a list of names of their relatives or associates.

Those who disregard this requirement and have their relatives or associates benefit from their office could be dealt with under the MACC Act for abuse of power.

They could face a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the value of the gratification, or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

Meanwhile, ex-Transparency International Malaysia president Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the requirement should also be extended to senior officials in the civil service, especially those who were part of tender committees.

 Navaratnam, chairman of the Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies, also said it was easy for those in power to appoint proxies and get a commission from them later.


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