PAS says Azam has cleared his name, but youth wing wants independent probe

PAS is mounting a defence for embattled MACC chief Azam Baki, saying the latter’s “tell-all” press conference on alleged misconduct should put matters to rest.

However, the party’s youth wing appears to take a different stand on the issue, saying they want the anti-corruption czar to go on leave pending an independent probe.

Azam is under fire after he was exposed for owning millions of shares and warrants in two companies back in 2015 when he was the MACC investigations director.

This raised concerns of an alleged conflict of interest, besides violating a government circular prohibiting civil servants from owning RM100,000 worth of shares in any company.

He told a press conference on Wednesday that his brother had bought shares using his account, while the MACC advisory board had cleared him of misconduct.

Azam said all shares have since been transferred to his brother.

In a statement late last night, PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said the party welcomed Azam’s explanations on his shareholdings.

He said the party hoped allegations against Azam will now be put to rest, and that the burden of proof now lies on the MACC chief’s accusers.

“PAS is confident that the authorities will review (Azam’s) statement and then take fair action on all quarters based on facts and laws,” Takiyuddin said.

He also alleged that the accusations against Azam were meant to destabilise Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government.

However, in a separate statement yesterday afternoon, PAS Youth called for the government to take action to defend its integrity.

PAS Youth chief Ahmad Fadhli Shaari said while he respected the MACC chief, he should go on garden leave to make way for investigations that could clear his name.

“PAS Youth views this matter seriously, and it is the obligation of the government and the prime minister to take immediate action by holding an independent and open investigation,” he said.

“PAS Youth respectfully also recommends that all those involved, including the top MACC officers, go on leave until their names are cleared.”

Fadhli added that this was necessary to ensure transparency in investigations and to prove the government was serious in upholding the law.

He said he personally hoped that Azam would be able to return to duty with a clean slate.

Securities Commission to investigate

In the wake of the controversy, the Securities Commission (SC) said that it would be reaching out to Azam over his shareholding activities as well as his brother who allegedly used the MACC chief’s account.

Section 25 of the Securities Industry (Central Depositories) Act 1991 (Sicda), every security account opened with a central depository must be in the name of the beneficial owner of the deposited securities or in the name of an authorised nominee.

Offences under Section 25 is punishable with a fine of up to RM3 million or imprisonment of up to 10 years or both.

Azam has said that he would give full cooperation to the SC. He has also initiated legal action against the whistleblower who exposed his shareholdings.

Meanwhile, Umno supreme council member Puad Zarkashi also urged the prime minister to set up a special task force to investigate the allegations against Azam.

He said the public are unlikely to trust the findings of MACC’s Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB), which has cleared the Azam of wrongdoing.

“The people will not believe the report that will be sent by (advisory board chair) Abu Zahar Ujang to the prime minister because the board only listened to Azam’s explanations.

“Also, did they call upon other parties like (former MACC panel member) Edmund Terence Gomez, the Securities Commission, and Azam’s brother (Nasir) to make the investigation a comprehensive one?

“The people will doubt the outcome of the ACAB’s one-sided investigation,” Puad was quoted as saying by FMT.  MKINI

MACC advisory board has no authority to investigate agency, says ex-chair

Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim says in terms of corruption, Malaysia is worse off now than it was 20 years ago. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 7, 2022.
He said there are matters beyond the board’s purview, as laid out in the MACC Act 2009.

“These panels have no power to investigate the conduct of officers,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“When I was chairman, I was aware of the fact that I was put in a purely advisory capacity.

“That is why apart from what is happening now, or what I call the ‘Azam Affair’, the prime minister must set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into MACC’s national state, extent of corruption and effectiveness as presently constituted and organised.

“In other words, there is a need for a thorough review of the (agency’s) present structure.”

MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki allegedly owned 2.15 million shares in Excel Force MSC Bhd in 2015, as well as 1.93 million shares in Gets Global Bhd the same year and 1.02 million shares the following year.

The advisory panel has cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Azam told the media that he allowed his brother, Nasir, to use his trading account to purchase shares from the two companies.

The shares were later transferred to the latter’s account, he added.

But the MACC Act 2009 states that the advisory board does not have the authority to conduct its own investigation.

The Act allows the advisory board to only advise the agency on aspects of corruption, policies and strategies to eliminate corruption, and scrutinise and endorse proposals that lead to the effective running of the agency.

The board is also responsible for scrutinising and endorsing resources needed by the commission, scrutinising its annual reports and submitting them to the Special Committee on Corruption.

MACC cannot police itself

Tunku Aziz said the board’s decision to conduct its own investigation despite not being empowered to do so shows that it is in dire need of an oversight committee.

“Any company without a board of directors or any organisation without an executive oversight committee, that is why you have this attitude. They can do as they like because there is no one looking after them.

“No organisation anywhere in the world has ever been known to police itself. But because of a lack of oversight, you get this situation.

“If we are serious about fighting corruption, we need to set up an executive board to which MACC is answerable. A board must be set up that has the power to direct the policy and operational aspects of the agency. Otherwise, we are just playing at fighting corruption.”

He said the executive board should comprise citizens of outstanding credentials – people who have no interest in protecting their own position, but instead look into all potential corruption issues.

Though MACC is supposed to be an independent body, it falls under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department. It also has many top-ranking officials who are civil servants.

Tunku Aziz said: “The whole thing is a joke. You call these people commissioners, (but) they are just government officers.”

“The commissioners should be a board of commissioners, which should be a governing body, but it has never existed. (It is now) the tail wagging the dog, instead of the dog wagging the tail.

“These institutions are compromised as they have been used politically since the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (former prime minister) regime. Once you make senior civil servants beholden to their masters, their integrity is compromised.”

Tunku Aziz said Malaysia is worse off now than it was 20 years ago, when he started the fight against corruption.

“I started a campaign against corruption 20 years ago, and it has gotten worse 20 years on. There are people who know how to fight corruption, but are not used to it because they are bound to be difficult to manage; so they get cronies. This is ridiculous.

“I am concerned with what is happening to a country once looked up to, where we talked about corruption in other countries.

“Malaysia was always up there, but it is at the bottom today.”

Tunku Aziz has worked with the World Bank and served as special adviser to former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.  TMI