The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has proposed a rule to compel ministers to declare to the cabinet whenever their family members bid for government contracts or apply for soft loans.

NONEThis is part of seven proposals from the commission to combat graft following public outcry over the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal, MACC deputy commissioner Sutinah Sutan (left) told a press conference today.

Under the current regulations, ministers will only need to declare their interest if they sit in decision-making bodies for government projects involving their families.

"MACC proposes to include this clause into the (ministers') code of conduct so as to compel them to make a declaration," Sutinah said.

She said MACC had scrutinised four bodies over the NFC incident - the Finance Ministry, Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry, Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Incorporated and the NFC itself.

This allowed it to identify seven weaknesses and formulate the seven proposals.
Failure will bring disciplinary action
Failing to do this, Sutinah said, would allow the relevant government bodies to take disciplinary action against the minister concerned.
She said the definition of ‘families’ under the MACC Act included siblings, in-laws, cousins and the relatives of parents.

"MACC has presented the proposals to the relavant government bodies and hopes the government will accept it."

To a question, Sutinah said ministers are encouraged to declare their interests to the public as well, as this would enhance public accountability and change the public perception of them. 

However, she acknowledged that there were weakness in this, since a minister could pledge ignorance of his or her relatives' involvement in government project.

NONEHowever, the MACC officers would determine the genuineness of such a claim, if made.
Asked whether former minister Shahrizat Abdul Jaluil had declared to the cabinet her family’s link with NFC, Sutinah declined to answer.

She said, the MACC proposals would not include any retraction of the RM250 million soft loan given to NFC, since the MACC had no power to propose this.

The seven proposals of the MACC are:
  • The Finance Ministry to come out with a clearer, standard procedure on soft loans; 
  • Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry to practise due diligence. It should be familiar with the background and abilities of companies bidding for projects; 
  • Risks involving the projects must be diligently assessed; 
  • A coordinating agency be set up to coordinate and monitor projects;
  • Ensure clear terms of reference for the boards of directors of companies appointed, so that they can play effective roles;
  • Tighten the terms for loan agreements; and 
  • Include a clause into the code of conduct for members of the government administration to make a declaration when their family members apply for government facilities.