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Shahrir should resign as Public Accounts Committee Chairman on his appointment as Perbadanan Nasional Bhd (PNS) Chairman to avoid conflict-of-interests arising from incompatibility of the two roles

 


Media Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament, Friday): Barisan Nasional Member of Parliament for Johor Bahru Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad should resign as Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman of Parliament on his appointment as Perbadanan Nasional Bhd (PNS) Chairman to avoid a conflict-of-interest situation arising from the  incompatibility of his two roles.

During the last sitting of the 41-day 2005 budget meeting on December 14, 2004, the last item of parliamentary business was the motion to appoint  Shahrir as the PAC Chairman to replace Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib, who had been elected as the Parliament Speaker. 

In the debate, I expressed my support and confidence in  Shahrir as the PAC Chairman although I would have preferred Parliament joining the mainstream Commonwealth parliamentary  practice, convention and tradition of having an Opposition MP to head the Public Accounts Committee to provide an effective check on the governmentís financial stewardship, hoping that Shahrir would develop the PAC to be respected and feared not only by the civil servants but also by the Cabinet Ministers as well. 

Shahrirís appointment as the new chairman of Perbadanan Nasional Bhd effective from January 1, 2005  has however changed the entire  picture. 

I am not impugning Shahrirís credentials or qualifications for the post of PNS Chairman, just as I had not questioned his credentials or suitability to be PAC Chairman, but clearly he cannot do justice to both roles because of their incompatibility, giving rise to conflict-of-interest situations.

PNS is a Minister of Finance Incís majority-owned company and  an agency under the purview of the Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Ministry (MECD) tasked with the responsibility to develop and increase the number of middle level bumiputera entrepreneurs in the country.

As such, he is responsible directly to the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development and generally to the Cabinet Ė which undermines the independence and armís-length relationship necessary for a PAC Chairman if the PAC is to play a full, effective and meaningful role as a watchdog for Parliament and the Malaysian taxpayers to monitor the efficiency, economy and effectiveness of all government departments and agencies in their expenditure of public funds Ė including the Ministry of Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development and PNS. 

Shahrir should not put PAC in an invidious position and spare Parliament the embarrassment of his conflicting dual role, when PNS should in fact be one target which should be receiving intense PAC scrutiny, not only because its  chief executive officer Shaharian Shahrudin was arrested and charged with corruption concerning criminal breach of trust involving over RM460,000, and  now awaiting trial, but also because it operates companies and  entrepreneur development funds which run into billions of ringgit, raising questions about accountability, integrity and professionalism.

Shahrir should resign as PAC Chairman so that the post could be filled in the special parliamentary sitting on January 17. Now that the PAC Chairmanís post is to be vacant again, the time has come for an Opposition MP to be appointed.  I will write to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, urging him to agree to an Opposition MP to be PAC Chairman as an important step to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament.

(7/1/2005)


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman