Political funding Bill can enhance integrity, say experts

PETALING JAYA: The proposed legislation on political funding is long overdue as a move to promote better governance and integrity, say political parties and experts.

Former Transparency International Malaysia deputy president Dr Loi Kheng Min suggested that under the Bill, political funding be made payable to a party and not to individuals, except for independent candidates.

“Political contributions can be tax-exempt but there must be a cap, maybe up to RM1mil.

“There should also be a ceiling on political donations from government-linked companies (GLCs), otherwise there will be an ‘outflow’ or misuse of funds from GLCs towards ruling political parties.

“Better still, there should be a list of ‘non-permitted donors’ that can include GLCs, non-citizens and foreign organisations,” he added.

Loi said the legislation must be drafted comprehensively to ensure it serves its purpose.

“Most importantly, politicians from both sides of the divide must demand greater integrity if they are serious in combating corruption,” he said yesterday.

On Thursday, the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB) made several suggestions to the Special Committee on Corruption (SCC), including enacting laws to regulate political funding.

Loi also suggested that the Election Offences Act 1954 be amended to require party election expenses to be independently audited before being submitted to the Election Commission (EC).

“The EC should be empowered to carry out investigations and verify the candidates’ financial reports,” he added.

Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan said the party supported the call to enact laws to regulate political funding.

He pointed out that the Barisan Nasional government had tried to introduce such a bill in 2017-2018 but it was opposed by the Opposition then.

“We almost passed the bill but it was rejected by the Opposition because they were worried there would be discrimination against those who donated to them,” he said.

International Islamic University Malaysia law professor Prof Dr Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmod said the law on political funding was mooted a long time ago but the lack of political will had caused its delay.

“There is so much at stake for political parties on both sides.

“Then again, a law on political funding ensures transparency and integrity in the governance of all political parties.

Nik Ahmad Kamal believes that with the law in place, political parties will have to be on their toes all the time.

“They will have to be very selective in accepting political contributions,” he said.

Pakatan Harapan communications director Fahmi Fadzil said he agreed that a political funding act was something needed as part of wider reforms.

“But it must involve broad engagement before being brought to Parliament. It cannot happen without also passing several other laws, including ones on party hopping and parliamentary services,” he said.

Universiti Malaya’s Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said it was time focus was given to the regulation of political donations, which can be the main cause of corruption in politics.

“Much of the funding lack transparency,” he said.

“Political donations are also known to be a potential source of wealth for politicians,” he said.

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