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Sunday, 10 April 2016

Shahrol not only one to blame for 1MDB failures, says NGO

Human rights group Proham today said that allegations of criminal breach of trust surrounding state-owned fund 1MDB is not the sole responsibility of its former chief executive officer.

Responding to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on 1MDB, Proham expressed shock over the disclosure of weak governance structure and monitoring instituted for such huge sums of public funds.

“We express deep concern over the failure of the board of directors, the advisory council and the Finance Ministry to institute adequate checks and balances.

“We are not in agreement that the criminal breach of trust lies solely on the CEO of 1MDB and therefore the speedy release of the auditor-general’s report is imperative,” said Proham chairperson Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari and secretary-general Denison Jayasooria in a statement.

Proham noted that a delay in releasing the report has negatively impacted public perception on the full disclosure and transparency of the investigations.

The 106-page report, among others, had identified a number of weaknesses in the governance and decision-making of 1MDB.

The PAC report released in the Dewan Rakyat on April 7 had, among others, urged authorities to probe 1MDB former chief executive officer Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi and others in the management.

“Particularly, PAC was of the view that 1MDB ex-CEO Shahrol should take the responsibility for the weaknesses and constraints.

“As such, the enforcement agency was urged to probe Shahrol and other management,” said the PAC’s report on 1MDB.

Shahrol Azral, however, had stressed that there was no wrongdoing or illegal activity at the company under his watch.

He also pledged to continue extending his full cooperation with any further investigation, after having appeared before the members of the PAC and giving them a full and honest account of his time as CEO of 1MDB.

‘Institutional reforms necessary’

Commenting further, Proham said adequate constitutional safeguards are necessary to prevent any further abuse by the executive.

It urges institutional reforms to be implemented to ensure all responsible for “neglect of their public duty” can be prosecuted.

“There is a need for further public discussion on whether government should be involved in business and financial investments as well as what effective monitoring mechanisms are necessary to prevent abuse of power.

“Furthermore there is also a need for a public discussion on whether the same person should hold the office of the prime minister and office of the finance minister,” said Proham.

Having the same person in the two office is an “uncommon practice” in parliamentary democracies as the roles are distinctive and public officials are accountable to the public for their decisions, Proham added.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, as well as other Barisan Nasional ministers and leaders, had described findings of the PAC report as proof of “false allegations” made by their critics in an attempt to topple the government.

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