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

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaThursday): 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:

  • Firstly, why the ACA keeps referring to 14 MPs who had submitted claims exceeding RM10,000 a month when Datuk Noh Omar, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, had in his answer during question-time in Parliament on Sept. 24 named 16 MPs – 14 last year and six for the first half of this year (which included four names listed last year and two new names)?

Has ACA arbitrarily dropped two of the 16 MPs from its investigations and if so, who are the lucky  two? 

  • Secondly, what  is the reason for the ACA initiating corruption  investigations into the “14 MPs” who had claimed over RM10,000 a month in the 18-month period?  Why has the  ACA arbitrarily chosen RM10,000 a month as the dividing line between parliamentary claims which are proper and not excessive, as if monthly claims of RM9,999 or below are not likely to be improper and excessive? 
  • Thirdly,  If the ACA is efficient, competent, professional and independent, it would have known by now that it is not unusual for MPs to submit “meeting claims” exceeding RM10,000 a month when Parliament meets for at least three weeks in a month (or 12 sittings), based on the meeting, subsistence, hotel, telephone, mileage/airfare and other claims which they are entitled to.  The problematic cases are “non-meeting” parliamentary claims, whether above or below the RM10,000 monthly  figure.  ACA is wasting public funds as well as  committing a gross dereliction of  duties when it set up ACA squads to investigate MPs whose meeting claims exceed RM10,000 a month for at least three weeks of parliamentary meeting   while ignoring “non-meeting” claims of MPs, whether above or below RM10,000 a month.  Is the ACA prepared to establish 193 ACA squads  to investigate into the “non-meeting” claims of all the 193 MPs?
  • Fourthly, is the ACA prepared to set up special investigation squads to conduct a full-scale probe into  the monthly claims of  Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries  as well as those of Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar, State Excos and State Assembly members at the state level?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman