In the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, it has been the tradition to choose the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee from the Opposition since the creation of this committee 138 years ago in 1861.
However, in the Malaysian Parliament, we have the opposite tradition of choosing a government MP to head the Public Accounts Committee since the first general election 40 years ago in 1959!
This is the primary reason why the PAC in Malaysia had never been able to make the impact made by other PACs in the United Kingdom or other Parliaments which continued with the proper tradition of appointing an Opposition MP to head the PAC.
The PAC does not concern itself with policy but only in whether policy is carried out efficiently, effectively and economically. Its main functions are to see that public moneys are applied for the purposes prescribed by Parliament, that extravagance, waste and even corruption are minimised and that sound financial practices are encouraged in estimating and contracting, and in administration generally.
The PAC plays a very important role as a check-and-balance on government financial abuses, excesses and malpractices and its annual report should be an important event which all Malaysians look forward to - not only for Parliament but for the nation which is serious about good governance.
But in Malaysia, nobody has been bothered about the PAC reports - because without an Opposition to head it, the PAC cannot play its full and real role as the highest custodian of government public accountability.
One of the greatest challenges of the tenth Parliament is how the PAC can be restored to its full role as the highest custodian of government public accountability, and not continue to be toothless, obsolete and ineffective, producing outdated reports which interest nobody!
The first step is to appoint an Opposition MP to head the PAC. Furthermore, the PAC should reinvent itself by introducing innovations not only in its modus operandi but also initiate the modernisation of the public accountability system as an important and integral part of the modernisation of government in the new millennium.
The PAC for instance should maintain its own homepage giving notices
of its business and meetings and where its reports could be easily available
to all interested Malaysians. Furthermore, the PAC should open up
and hold its meetings in public.
A new Parliamentary Select Committee on Women Agenda
At the first meeting of DAP MPs and State Assemblymen in Petaling Jaya yesterday, I expressed disappointment that there are only two women Ministers as compared to three in the previous cabinet, although there is an unprecedented number of 20 women MPs in the new Parliament.
I suggested that the 20 women MPs should form a parliamentary women MPs caucus where they could act in concert to promote the women agenda, rising above party differences and unite on a common platform to promote women issues and the Women Agenda for Change in the new Parliament.
I am glad that my proposal had received instant positive response with the MCA Wanita chief and Deputy Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister, Datuk Dr. Ng Yen Yen, reported by the Star today as saying that "it is a good idea to form a Parliamentary women’s caucus which cuts across political borders and which has a clear objective of improving women’s status".
DAP has three women MPs, namely Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam), Teresa Kok (Seputeh) and Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah). All three of them will be in the forefront to promote the Women Agenda for Change in the new Parliament.
The Parliamentary Women Caucus should be formed when Parliament meets on Dec. 20, 1999 to show the seriousness of all the 20 women MPs to give top priority to the women’s agenda in the new Parliament, with each of the two key posts of Chairperson and Secretary shared between the Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternatif.
In fact, Parliament should consider establishing a new Select Committee on Women Agenda to comprise MPs regardless of gender, as the women agenda for change should be the responsibility of all MPs, men or women.