GLCs urged to register under SSM

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / TMR file pix

CIVIL society groups have called on the government to identify and register all state-linked entities with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM), an exercise that could rectify any issue arising from “financial and management loopholes”.

According to the GLC Reform Cluster, the new government seems to have been making “slow progress” in reforming government-linked companies (GLCs) due to the absence of a comprehensive list on the number of GLCs that have functions in the Malaysian economy.

“It is in the manifesto. We can forgive Pakatan Harapan for delaying some of them, but this is not one of them. The task we are asking is something minimal. It is easy to do and it can be immediately done.

“There is nothing like transparency and accountability to reduce corruption. That is basically what we are asking for. The glare of public scrutiny is the best check on abuse of power,” Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, a member of the GLC Reform Cluster, said at a media briefing in Petaling Jaya yesterday.

The cluster, which is part of a civil society platform comprising 50 non-governmental organisations, is of the opinion that the hundreds of GLCs owned by the federal and state governments cannot be fully identified as they are set up as statutory bodies or as foundations.

Many of these entities do not report on their financial status and performances, which make them vulnerable to abuses as seen in 1Malaysia Development Bhd, Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH), the Federal Land Development Authority and Majlis Amanah Rakyat.

The cluster has also called for the formation of an independent task force to map out all federal-linked GLCs, including those under the control of state governments.

This task force, it said, would also function to scrutinise audited reports, disclose suspicious transactions and propose amendments to the Companies Act 2016 to ensure all GLCs register with the SSM.

The unearthing of numerous scandals in GLCs following Pakatan Harapan’s historic win last year has prompted the need for greater liability within government-owned units.

The likes of TH, which has admitted to making illegal dividend distributions since 2014, have since taken legal measures against its former directors and management, and has put itself under the scrutiny of the central bank.

While the cluster applauds the government’s measures, more needs to be done to ensure that public institutions like TH are continuously scrutinised.

“I applaud what the government has done, but I would also like to say that we’ve seen this before and can we now make sure it does not happen again,” said Universiti of Malaya Prof Edmund Terence Gomez, who is also a senior fellow at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.

Gomez said a parliamentary oversight committee on GLCs would provide greater checks and balances as audits would be scrutinised by the opposition as well.

Meanwhile, Ambiga has described the string of political appointments made at several GLCs as “unacceptable” and that the explanation given to defend those decisions is “unviable”.

She was referring to the appointment of Junaidah Kiting — the wife of the prime minister’s political secretary, as chairman of Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia — as well as the appointment of Parti Amanah Negara members as heads of agencies under the Ministry of Agriculture.

“The flip on the appointments is unbelievable. It’s so ‘in your face’ actually. I can’t even believe that they are doing it openly and they are justifying it. It is completely unacceptable,” she said.