PETALING JAYA: It was supposed to be a leap in transparency. Instead, there was confusion and criticism when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) began displaying income figures from the voluntary asset declaration of elected representatives and government leaders.
However, the commission said the brickbats over the haphazard manner in which the information was published online were uncalled for, pointing out that it was merely following the government’s directive.
Top officials of the MACC said it was their job to provide a platform for elected politicians to declare their assets and for the commission to release the data on its asset declaration portal, as required by the government.
Chief Commissioner Datuk Mohd Shukri Abdull said there were no technical problems with the portal, as the monthly incomes of the ministers, deputy ministers and MPs have been published.
“Right now, we’re just waiting for the final say from the Cabinet or the minister (Datuk Liew Vui Keong, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law) to publish the assets of the ministers,” said Mohd Shukri, adding that only a few members of the administration had not submitted their declarations, and that they were expected to do so as soon as possible.
“They were supposed to have sent in their declarations three months after being sworn in as ministers,” Mohd Shukri said when asked about those who have yet to declare their assets.
However, he added, there would not be any MACC action for now against MPs who do not do so because the MACC Act 2009 has yet to be amended to make it mandatory for elected representatives to declare their assets.
“But this is a Pakatan Harapan promise, so it’s the MPs’ responsibility to declare as soon as possible.
“If you are slow in doing so, the public will see and ask what has happened to that promise?” he pointed out.
Mohd Shukri also said the enforcement body would check if the declarants’ assets were in keeping with their incomes, although one issue was that many new MPs and ministers already owned assets before coming into power.
Deputy Chief Commissioner (Prevention) Datuk Shamsun Baharin Mohd Jamil said all elected politicians are expected to declare their assets to the government, with the MACC to receive a copy of each declaration.
“We would then put up the information as decided by the government,” said Shamsun.
He said as of yesterday, 99 elected representatives have declared their assets but only 69 have given copies of their declarations to the MACC.
When pressed further on why the portal only provided monthly incomes and not the rest of the information declared, he repeated “we are merely preparing the platform for the government.”
He said his officers were working around the clock to ensure that the website was updated.
Another top source in MACC said the anti-corruption body should not be blamed for any discrepancies in the figures on display, as they were just doing their duty as civil servants.
“We will only publish what the government tells us (to publish). At the end of the day, the decision is with the government and we are answerable to the Prime Minister,” said the officer who refused to be named.
Mohd Shukri said he hoped the proposed amendments to the MACC Act could be tabled in the next parliamentary session in March or April 2019.
The commission got flak for what was posted on the asset declaration portal yesterday for the first time.
According to the MACC, the incomes published included the elected representatives’ salaries, allowances and other forms of income.
However, several wakil rakyat whose income details were published complained that the figures were not what they had declared.
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin said she had declared more than what was published, while Works Minister Baru Bian said that he had double-declared his MP income.
Another state assemblyman, who did not want to be named, said what was published does not reflect the true financial state of the elected representatives.
He pointed out that publishing incomes without showing liabilities is not right as the liabilities may exceed the incomes.