Thursday, February 02, 2023

Political Appointments Reforms - Nepotistic Appointment of daughter Nurul Izzah Is an Abuse of Power, Abuse of Discretion and Corrupt practice not in line with good governance(MADPET)


Media Statement – 2/2/2023

Nepotistic Appointment of daughter Nurul Izzah Is an Abuse of Power, Abuse of Discretion and Corrupt practice not in line with good governance

The recent disclosure that Nurul Izzah Anwar, a former Pakatan Harapan Member of Parliament who failed to defend her seat in GE15, and the daughter of current Prime Minister and Finance Minister was appointed as senior economics and finance adviser on January 4, allegedly by her father, the Prime Minister and/or Minister of Finance raises serious issues about the practice of political appointments by the new Pakatan Harapan led coalition government.

Will the abuse, process and bad practices of political appointments under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim remain unchanged and remain the same as was previously done by BN and PN governments, despite talks of good governance and promised real changes and reform including transparency and accountability.

Political appointments have been known to be abused by governments as a means to secure and maintain support of Members of Parliaments, be it from within one’s own party(or political coalition) or otherwise, to maintain support to be able for one continue to be Prime Minister, or to hold on to executive power in government. This use of ‘political appointments’ ought to be considered a form of corrupt practice.

Political appointments have also been abused by the appointment of one’s own family members, party members and friends to positions that inevitably can enable financial gain for the appointees, and powers.

Political appointments have also been abused to undermine democracy, by the denial of the peoples’ rights to democratically elect their community leaders, local government and even Senators in Malaysia. A political appointee is more likely to act as per the will of the political appointer, rather than for the interest and good of the people and communities. Peoples’ participation and decision-making powers can be stolen by such political appointees who make decisions on their own with any real consultation and participation of the people.

Appointment of daughter Nurul Izzah

In the appointment of Nurul Izzah, there is still a lack of transparency on the selection and appointment process. Did it follow even the principles behind the demands for open tenders, as apposed to direct appointments?

The fact that this appointment, that allegedly happened on 4th January, was kept ‘secret’, only to come to light when Nurul herself disclosed it in a recent media interview several weeks later, does not augur well for the Prime Minister and the cabinet, as it lacks transparency for any such information should have been disclosed to the public immediately.

The Prime Minister has absolute discretion in the appointment of Cabinet members, as stated in the Federal Constitution, but it does not extend to the appointment of others to government positions. The executive power is with the Cabinet not the Prime Minister, save when the laws provide specifically that a particular discretion can be exercised solely by the Prime Minister, Minister or some other.

There is a need to disclose whether the appointment of Nurul Izzah was done by the Prime Minister, Finance Minister or some other. It is best practice that Malaysians are informed which law was relied on for the appointment of Nurul Izzah, or any other political appointee. Names of the political appointee, the law relied on, and the amount of salary/allowance that the appointee will receive must be disclosed.

Referring to the United Nations documents like the UN Guide for Anti-Corruption Policies, it is stated therein that, ‘…generally, favouritism, nepotism and clientelism involve abuses of discretion. Such abuses, however, are governed not by the self-interest of an official but the interests of someone linked to him or her through membership of a family, political party, tribe, religious or other group. The hiring of ‘…a relative, he or she acts in exchange for the less tangible benefit of advancing the interests of family or the specific relative involved (nepotism)…’.

As such, MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) takes the position that the appointment of Nurul Izzah by her father is clearly nepotism, and can be perceived as an abuse of power, and even if it was done pursuant to a power explicitly provided by law, it may still be an abuse of discretion contrary to the principles of good governance.

Nurul’s qualification to be Anwar’s senior economics and finance adviser may not be the issue, but were other qualified persons like academics, proven business personalities and others even considered.

Other Issues behind political appointment to government or government agencies

In political appointments to positions in government or government agencies, certain matters need to be considered, some of which are as follows: -

a)      Legal Basis for The Appointments – What law allows for the appointment of say Nurul Izzah or other political appointees to government positions? It is absurd to say that a Prime Minister or a Minister can simply appoint anyone for any position as he/she pleases is simply not right.

b)      Liability for actions/omissions of political appointees – With ‘power’ that comes with the appointment, the question that follows is whether the said appointee will also be personally liable for actions/omission especially those that causes damages and/or loss to Malaysia or others? Can they be sued? Will the appointing Minister and the government of Malaysia be vicariously liable?

c)      Public Officers or not – It must be made clear whether Nurul Izzah and others appointed by Ministers or government to be government positions are public officers or not? Will they also be subject to the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) 1993 Regulations? Who does Nurul Izzah and such political appointees report to – the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Cabinet or to Parliament?

d)      Financial Implications. Even though Nurul Izzah may not be paid an allowance or salary, in the carrying out of her duties, the government will inevitably expend monies and resources. Will these monies come from a Ministry’s budget, or the government’s budget?

e)      Employment/Appointment Contracts – Will the services of political appointees immediately end when the said particular Minister or government that appointed them cease to hold power? Or, will Malaysia be liable to pay termination benefits or compensation/damages for early termination of contracts? This is a concern for Malaysians, more so when sometimes some of these political appointees may be employed with rather high salaries, and with fixed term contracts.

On 14/12/2023, the Malaysian cabinet decided that chairmen and directors on the boards of federal statutory bodies, Ministry of Finance (Inc) companies, government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies who were political appointment will be terminated effective immediately (NST, 16/12/2022).All political appointees and directors in federal statutory bodies, Ministry of Finance (Inc) firms, government-linked corporations (GLCs), and government-linked investment companies (GLICs) had their services terminated. How much did Malaysia have to pay these when the services of these ‘political appointees’ were terminated?

There was hopes that reforms, including possibly the end of appointment of politicians, would be put placed, before any new appointments is done. Unfortunately, there has been almost silence after the termination exercise of political appointees. Have new persons be appointed ‘secretly’?

Political Appointees and GLCs

One concern about political appointees, is the question of qualification and competency of these appointees. Appointment of the ‘wrong’ persons can lead to abuse of power and losses of the peoples’ monies. Sadly, some appointees may get focused in enriching themselves or their ‘friends’, and it can result in poor performances of the said government agencies or government linked companies. FELDA, Lembaga Urusan Tabung Haji(LUTH), Malaysian Airlines, 1MDB and SRC International are examples where political appointees may have brought about losses and/or failures.

In 2019, it was highlighted how Malaysian GLCs have on average underperformed their private sector counterparts over the last ten years. “The data is very clear; total returns — share price and dividends — of non-GLCs are about five times greater than GLCs over a 10-year period,” said a panelist at a forum. (Edge Markets, 31/10/2019).

On 24/1/2023, the Perak state government announced the shutdown of 27 of its subsidiaries identified as non-performing and burdensome to save costs. Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad was reported saying that the Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak (PKNP) subsidiaries affected by the closure were not carrying out business activities and had failed to contribute to the state government. (FMT, 24/1/2023).

Will Prime Minister Anwar and the Federal government also take the drastic needed actions as was done in Perak? Will the political appointees (or the Minister responsible for the appointment) who caused or contributed to these failures and losses be held personally accountable and liable?

Anwar Ibrahim had previously lamented about the very high wages and allowances paid out to political appointees, sometimes even higher that allowances for Members of Parliament – will the new government legislate on maximum remuneration and matters related. Even after 1MDB and SRC, it seems that many politically appointed Directors have yet be made liable. Sometimes, these political appointments are simply about benefits and power, with no responsibility for failures and losses caused.

Reforms are most needed, and it best be made clear by means of laws – and not left uncertain discretionary powers of Ministers. Parliament also should play their role in monitoring political appointments by the executive branch of government. Will Parliament, or the relevant Parliamentary Select Committee investigate the appointment of Nurul Izzah and other political appointee of this Pakatan Harapan led coalition government?

MADPET also calls for the end of political appointments of kampung, kampung baru, kampung orang asli and community’s leaderships. These leaders and peoples’ representative must be democratically elected by the people. Malaysian people’s right to democratically elect their own Local Government, and even Senators must happen.

MADPET calls for real reform in the political appointment process, whereby the selection and appointment must be done without any discrimination by preferably an independent body, and not left to sole discretion of the Prime Minister or Minister. Nepotism must be avoided.

MADPET urges the Malaysian Human Rights Commission(SUHAKAM) to investigate the nepotistic appointment of Nurul Izzah by her father, as such abuse of power or discretion directly impairs on the rights of all Malaysians. SUHAKAM could also provide recommendation for best practices in good governance on when and how such appointments can, or ought to be done in a transparent, accountable and non-corrupt manner.

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

No comments: