Establishment of 14 ACA squads to investigate excessive parliamentary claims by 14 MPs marks a double new and disgraceful low – for the reputation and credibility of both Parliament and the ACA
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) Director of Investigations, Datuk Nordin Ismail has revealed that the ACA yesterday established 14 squads to investigate and verify all bills and claims by 14 Members of Parliament involved in excessive parliamentary claims exceeding RM10,000 a month, with each team manned by an ACA officer and two other staff members.
Nordin told Utusan Malaysia that from today, every one of the 14 ACA investigation squads would be sent out simultaneously to the different states, constituencies and places to verify every bill and claim submitted by the 14 MPs, whether involving government departments or the private sector such as hotels or lodging centres. The 14 ACA squads investigating MPs’ claims would complete their verification exercise within a month and the entire investigations expected to be completed within two months.
The establishment of the 14 ACA investigation squads into 14 MPs for excessive parliamentary claims exceeding RM10,000 a month were made on the same day that the Cabinet decided that the issue would be left to the ACA to investigate.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim told the press after the Cabinet meeting yesterday that the ACA had greater probing powers than a parliamentary Select Committee.
The formation of the 14 ACA squads to investigate 14 MPs’ excessive parliamentary claims marks a double new and disgraceful low – for the standing, credibility, integrity and legitimacy of Parliament as the highest political and legislative forum in the country as well as for the competence, professionalism, independence and impartiality of the ACA.
Parliament will lose the moral right to expose corruption and debate abuses of power if it is not prepared to assert its authority, autonomy and independence from the Executive to act decisively to restore public confidence in the credibility of Parliament as an institution and the integrity of MPs by conducting an independent, professional and public investigation into the serious allegations of abuses by MPs involving excessive and improper parliamentary claims.
Why should the Cabinet be making the final decision on the mode of investigations into the serious allegations of improper and excessive parliamentary claims by MPs, when Parliament itself should be making the final decision if Parliament is the highest political and legislative chamber in the land – higher than the Cabinet? Is the Cabinet answerable to Parliament or is Parliament answerable to Cabinet?
There is nothing in law to stop the ACA from conducting investigations into excessive parliamentary claims if there is prima facie suspicion of corrupt practices, but there is also nothing in parliamentary practices to stop Parliament, either through the Committee of Privileges or a Special Select Committee, from conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the whole controversy of parliamentary claims which has become a national scandal.
All that is needed is for Parliament to pass a motion directing the Committee of Privileges or a Special Select Committee to investigate excessive parliamentary claims and to make recommendations for reforms of parliamentary claims to restore public confidence in the credibility and integrity of Members of Parliament.
Why is there no such motion in the Dewan Rakyat under Standing Order 80 to refer the whole issue to the Committee of Privileges or a Special Select Committee for a thorough investigation when it is now more than two weeks since the excessive parliamentary claims bomb had exploded in Parliament?
Even now, it is not too late for the Dewan Rakyat to pass such a motion, a course of action which would been taken by Parliaments all over the world whose MPs jealously protect their own reputation and dignity and the principle that Parliament must be able to regulate its own affairs including monitoring and punishing MPs for any breaches of privileges such as excessive and false parliamentary claims.
I have never accepted the argument by Rais Yatim that the Dewan Rakyat does not have the authority to probe the allegations that 14 MPs had made excessive claims and that only the police and the ACA could conduct such investigations – which is one of Rais’ most bizarre ideas, misinterpreting the law and parliamentary practices which flout established legal principles as well as parliamentary conventions and traditions.
The problem however lies not in Rais but in the Members of Parliament, whether government or opposition, as to why they could not pass a motion in Parliament in the past two weeks to conduct a public parliamentary inquiry into the allegations of excessive and improper parliamentary claims to clear MPs of all suspicion of impropriety and corrupt practice?
Just because ACA is investigating does not preclude Parliament from conducting its own investigations, as there are plenty of examples from other countries of multiple investigations into different aspects of a public scandal.
The ACA has not emerged from the parliamentary claims allegations with its reputation as a competent, professional, independent and unbiased agency unscathed either, for four reasons:
Has ACA arbitrarily dropped two of the 16 MPs from its investigations and if so, who are the lucky two?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman