Bersih 2.0 says appointments to key public offices should be more transparent, accountable, open to public scrutiny and merit-based.

PETALING JAYA: Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 has called for the enactment of a law on the appointment of public officers to key roles in constitutional and statutory bodies.

It proposed the enactment of a Public Appointments and Removal Bill to oversee the appointment of top officers in federal bodies such as the auditor-general, the solicitor-general, the chief secretary, the inspector-general of police and commissioners of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

This, it said, would allow the appointments to be more transparent, accountable, open to public scrutiny and merit-based.

In a comparative report looking into the appointment process of key public officers in the UK, Canada and the US, Bersih suggested that the bill should allow the ministers involved to appoint an independent advisory assessment panel headed by civil society to interview and recommend candidates for the posts.

This should be followed by an open and informed invitation to the public to apply for any such vacancies, it said.

“After going through the selection process, the advisory assessment panel shall recommend up to three candidates for the vacancy to the relevant minister, in order of preference,” it said.

They said the minister can either accept the candidates or refer the matter back to the Advisory Assessment Panel for reconsideration.

It also proposed that the ministers nominate the recommended candidate to the relevant Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), as an additional layer of check and balance over the appointment process.

“The PSC shall have the final say on the confirmation of appointments of key public officers,” it said.

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“The bill shall make it mandatory for the minister to appoint the successful candidate approved by the PSC.

“If the key public officer is to be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) under the law, the minister shall advise the YDPA to appoint the said successful candidate.”

Bersih also suggested that the bill allow for the appointment of a commissioner for public appointments and removal, tasked with overseeing the procedures to ensure that they are complied with by all ministries, agencies and other stakeholders.

The commissioner would also play a role in auditing the appointment and removal processes and publishing the audit report to the public.

Bersih said the “overwhelming influence of the executive” over the appointment, renewal and removal of people in key public positions has led to abuse of power, cronyism and patronage.

It also said public officers have not been able to carry out their duties in a non-partisan manner.

“The problem is further hampered by the lack of transparency, accountability and public scrutiny of the entire process,” it said.

During a discussion on the report, Cynthia Gabriel of the Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) raised the issue of the appointment of the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“The prime minister holds the sole prerogative to appoint the MACC chief. The financing comes from the national budget and it is administered under the Prime Minister’s Department,” she said.

She said such factors would raise questions on MACC’s independence, which could even be compromised “as seen in previous cases such as the MACC investigations into the 1MDB scandal”.

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