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The Flipside

Published: Wednesday April 15, 2015 MYT 11:39:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 15, 2015 MYT 11:47:27 AM

PACking more punch

IN a week when all (tired) eyes were on POTA and the Sedition Act amendments being debated and passed in Parliament well past the midnight mark, few would have paid close attention to the findings of the annual Auditor-General’s report.   

While arguably not as hard-hitting as previous installments, the first series of the 2014 report raised some worryingly similar issues to its predecessors.

More delays in project completion, inefficient contractors, cost overruns, and missing inventory tell a recurring story of weaknesses in Government that have yet to be plugged several years on.

Besides the A-G’s report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also released its own report card on the Government last week, listing more than 60 recommendations on projects it had probed based on the findings of the 2013 A-G’s report.

Many of those recommendations have yet to be taken up, despite regular assurances from Ministers and top government officials that the flaws would be rectified promptly.

What I find even more shocking is that the PAC itself is not fully aware whether decisions have been taken on its recommendations.

Its chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed revealed last week that the Finance Ministry had failed to report back on the status of the committee’s recommendations since 2013.

This is despite Treasury Orders 304(b) specifically requiring them to produce a prompt report updating the committee on the corrective measures that have been undertaken.

The issue here seems to be a straightforward one.

The Finance Ministry needs to furnish a simple progress report, which should be of no problem if they were already working on the weaknesses raised by the PAC. After all, no government would resist the opportunity to brag about the progress its making.

Why then has the PAC, a legislative body that the government is answerable to and is more independent than the Auditor-General’s department, been kept out of the loop all this time?

Are we seeing some form of a power tussle between the Executive and the Legislative?

If improvements aren’t made, it would negate the role of PAC, a body traditionally found in Commonwealth nations and that ideally functions as a watchdog on Government expenditures.

But perhaps it is time Malaysia went a step further than some of its Commonwealth counterparts and also granted the PAC more punitive powers.

In the current format, Nur Jazlan and his band of government and opposition lawmakers helming the PAC can only advise the Executive on improving its policies and procedures. Evidently, that hasn’t been enough.

The A-G’s department, despite carrying out annual audits to the best of its ability, still reports to Government and cannot be considered the endgame to public accountability.

An entity answerable to the public like the PAC is hence much desired, but its authority should extend beyond its current advisory role.

We have our GTPs (Government Transformation Programme) and NKRAs (National Key Result Areas) to promote better governance, but these will remain mere acronyms if an overarching body like PAC is not able to hold the national policymakers to their word. 

Whenever I think of the PAC, I expect a body that will be able to crack the whip on behalf of the people, without fear or favour, so that those entrusted with our money handle every ringgit wisely.  

Anything to the contrary would be less than we deserve as taxpayers.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

Tags / Keywords: opinion, Akil Yunus, Flipside, PAC

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