IDEAS urges MPs to focus on legislation, not GLCs, during crisis

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ graphic by MZUKRI

THE appointment of members of parliament (MPs) to manage government-linked companies (GLCs) is “worrying” as it displays the arbitrary nature of the appointment process for heads of GLCs and statutory bodies.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said political appointments made at GLCs and statutory bodies also seem to be taking place at an odd time as the country grapples to contain the Covid-19 spread.

“It indicates that political affiliation may become the sole criterion in these appointments.

“It is well-established that appointing politically linked individuals to head such entities creates room for cronyism, patronage, abuse of power and corruption.

“Furthermore, appointing parliamentarians to head GLCs and statutory bodies also run the risk of becoming political rewards for electoral victory or in exchange of loyalty,” the research institute said in a statement yesterday.

GLCs control about half of the local stock market and a third of the economy.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s (PM) Department (Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan last week said that all MPs from the government who do not hold government positions will be appointed as heads of GLCs. Takiyuddin is also PAS secretary-general.

He was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying, “PAS has 18 MPs, eight are ministers and deputy ministers, and one has been made the PM’s special envoy to the Middle East. This leaves nine more MPs. Alhamdulillah, I understand all government MPs will be given the responsibility to manage GLCs.”

The new administration has set off a wave of changes in the past month, including swift sackings at Majlis Amanah Rakyat, resignations at Tekun Nasional and Khazanah Research Institute, and the appointment of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to the board of Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

Among the big names who have already vacated their positions include Social Security Organisation chairman Zakri Khir, Bank Rakyat chairman Datuk Noripah Kamso and Khazanah Research Institute chairman Dr Nungsari Ahmad.

Most recently, Machang MP and former Deputy Minister of Rural and Regional Development Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub was made the new chairman of Malaysian Palm Oil Board, succeeding Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh who served until March 31, 2020.

IDEAS urged the government to utilise measures that already exist, such as the Parliamentary Select Committee on Major Public Appointments and criteria that were set out in the GLC Transformation Programme in 2005 to ensure better corporate governance to bring transparency in running GLCs.

“What needs to be done is to build strong institutional frameworks that govern the overall mana- gement and performance of these GLCs and statutory bodies.

“This framework should include stringent procedures and guidelines on the appointment of board members and top management positions in all government-linked investment companies, GLCs and statutory bodies,” it said.

IDEAS added that these procedures must be entrenched in legislation to ensure compliance and should also ensure those who disregard them must not be allowed to get away with impunity.

“Until greater reforms are institutionalised, the government must take these steps to ensure its commitment towards greater transparency in the management of entities and assets it holds in the public’s trust,” it said.

In the long run, IDEAS said the government needs to exit from running businesses with the exception of some industries.

“It should develop a strategy to reduce the number and role of GLCs to improve the competitiveness of Malaysia’s economy and to unleash new sources of growth for all Malaysians.”