‘A slap on the wrist’ just won’t do, say anti-graft NGOs

PETALING JAYA: While townhall sessions on the Auditor-General’s (A-G) Report can be useful, there must also be follow-up action, say anti-corruption NGOs.

They said this would ensure that discrepancies flagged in the national audit report were addressed.

Malaysia Corruption Watch president Jais Abdul Karim said the revival of the townhall sessions would be a commendable move towards transparency.

To make the sessions more effective, he suggested the A-G and officials from other enforcement agencies, such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the police and the Attorney General’s Chambers, attend these townhall sessions too.

He added that these agencies must ensure that detailed and clear explanations were provided on the measures taken in response to the findings while addressing concerns raised by the public.

“(The townhalls must) actively involve the public in discussions and allow them to ask questions and express concerns,” said Jais, adding that this could foster a sense of participation and awareness among the people.

He said the sessions must outline concrete plans for follow-up action based on the discussions.

Officials responsible for issues raised must also be held accountable, he added.

Jais also proposed a transparent monitoring mechanism to track the progress of the action points discussed during the townhall sessions.

“By addressing these aspects, the government can strengthen anti-corruption initiatives, foster public trust and demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving administrative governance,” he said.

Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) president Dr Muhammad Mohan said townhalls would enable ministries, secretaries-general and department heads to explain to the public what went wrong and the actions being taken to plug the loopholes and stop the waste of taxpayer money.

However, despite having townhall sessions in 2015, 2016 and 2017, he asked why there was still wastage and a failure of fiduciary duties in the civil service.

He said the Prime Minister was working hard to bring changes to the civil service.

“But without a radical change to work processes, the practice of good governance, and embracing the culture of accountability in the public sector, it will be difficult to see a reduction in wastage,” he added.

He said public perception would be more positive if those responsible were willing to admit their failures and either resign or be removed from the civil service for failing in their fiduciary duties.

“Just a slap on the wrist is not going to get us anywhere,” said Muhammad.

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Zuki Ali earlier said the townhall sessions with the media that were held in 2015, 2016 and 2017 following the tabling of the A-G’s Report would be revived.

He said he had instructed the Public Service Department to conduct the townhall sessions to allow the secretaries-general to respond to the issues raised in the report.

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