KUALA LUMPUR: Government is mulling allowing the Environment Department to appoint its own consultant to conduct environmental impact assessments (EIA) on development projects, the Dewan Rakyat heard.
Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said that these were among the proposed improvements to improve transparency on the conduct of the EIA assessments.
"In terms of financial implications, the Environment Department can collect the payment directly from the project contractors but the department will pick the consultant to implement the work," he said in reply to a question from Sim Tze Tzin (PH-Bayan Baru) during Question Time.
Sim had asked whether the ministry intended to change the current method of carrying out EIAs and instead allow the department to handle the appointments of its own consultants.
Sim said this was crucial to address the issue of developers acting as paymasters, pressuring EIA consultants to issue a favourable report to ensure projects could be carried out without hiccups.
The other option was to allow the authorities to appoint independent consultants or auditors only on selected high-profile projects deemed to be environmentally sensitive but the developers still paid the fees, he said.
"The government is currently conducting a study to form an environmental board under the 12th Malaysia Plan," he said.
Meanwhile at a press conference at the parliament lobby, Nik Nazmi said that the government was aware of the issue of perception involving the practice of "consultant shopping" by certain project developers, hoping to hire one that could provide favourable EIA reports.
He added that the issue would be addressed once the government implemented the necessary improvements in the process of conducting EIA reports.
"The payment is made directly by the developer to the consulting company, so there is some concern over consultant shopping, as there is some pressure on the consultants to get as much business so they can provide a report that is perhaps leaning towards the developer of the project.
"However, it is now mandatory for the consultants to be registered with the Environment Department," he explained.
"All of the certified consultants under the Department of Environment had been scrutinised and vetted and cannot simply conduct the EIA," assured Nik Nazmi.