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Saturday, 30 May 2015

1MDB and the Public Accounts Committee

THE recent press conferences by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Parliament have attracted a large crowd of journalists.

About 25 representatives diligently attend the frequent briefings on the ongoing inquiry into the affairs of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Questions on the developments of the inquiry are lobbed by the media at its chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, as public interest on the dealings of 1MDB has grabbed headlines in recent months.

The controversies surrounding 1MDB are not new, but as revelations of past dealings infuriate the public, many questions about the dealings by 1MDB remain a mystery. But just what can the PAC do to investigate 1MDB and the personalities behind the controversy?

StarBizWeek tries to answer how the process will look like leading to the preparation and tabling of the report by the PAC in Parliament.

Can the PAC members disagree on their findings?

The PAC is a bi-partisan committee of lawmakers from both sides of the divide. Government and Opposition members in Parliament make up the PAC and in the investigation into the affairs of 1MDB, both camps have agreed to conduct the investigation regardless of party lines. Agreement on any report, like they have done in the past, is based on consensus. Differing views are heard and addressed when a report is finalised to be tabled in Parliament; it reflects a consensus agreement among all members of the committee.

Is there a time frame for the PAC to complete its task?

There is no set time frame for the PAC to conduct its investigations. In the inquiry into the issues surrounding 1MDB, the PAC wants its investigation to be as fast and thorough as possible. The investigation will be built from testimonies and documents given to the PAC. The PAC needs to give a minimum of two weeks’ notice before it calls up anyone to appear in front of the committee. In the case of the 1MDB investigation, the intent is to come out with its findings as soon as possible, but witnesses will likely be called to appear even up to September this year. The PAC’s proceedings are expected to take a few weeks’ break during Ramadan and Hari Raya.

Does it have the powers to compel a person to appear before the committee?

PAC gets its powers from Sect 77(1) of the Malaysian Parliamentary Standing Order. Under this provision, the PAC has the power to call witnesses and documents relevant to its investigations.

Refusal to comply with the PAC’s order is punishable with contempt of Parliament. Witnesses who refuse to do so can be hauled up to Parliament by the police. There is no restriction on who the PAC can ask to appear before the committee as long as they are relevant to the case.

Can a person lie before the PAC and get away with it?

There is no compulsion to tell the truth at any PAC hearing, but the PAC will be focusing on the audit trail of transactions and governance in 1MDB and on any broken links. Generally, witnesses are said to be afraid to lie, as evidence presented by a different witness may prove who has lied. The reputational damage on any witness who has lied would be a deterrent to do so.

What happens after the PAC completes its investigation?

The PAC report will be compiled and sent to the Speaker for tabling in the House. The report submitted will have a written transcript of the proceedings, so the report will be transparent, as it will be uploaded in PDF format on the PAC website for the public to see whether committee members had asked the right questions and whether the answers were pertinent. The conduct of the members of the committee and interviewees will be assessed by the public. If there is no wrongdoing, the public should be satisfied, but if there is any wrongdoing, then the PAC will recommend action on the perpetrators or further investigations by the relevant authorities, ie, the police or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, for example.

Tags / Keywords: PAC , FAQ , 1MDB

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