This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on July 29, 2019 - August 4, 2019
The appointment of Ipoh Timur MP Wong Kah Woh as the head of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) last week was disappointing. He is already on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as its deputy chairman. The committee’s role is basically to scrutinise the activities and conduct of the government and its officials, how public funds are spent and managed, and how government bodies attend to their responsibilities.
That scrutiny will inevitably extend to SEDA as a statutory body. The appointment will mean that Wong will receive compensation for his position. Should SEDA come under PAC’s scrutiny, it would mean that he is in a conflicted position.
It is worth noting that SEDA was sitting on RM2.6 billion in cash as at end-2017. Its functions and funds should be overseen by qualified professionals and not politicians to prevent possible abuse.
This is why the justifications put forward by some Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders to defend Wong’s appointment do not hold water.
While PH’s manifesto explicitly stated that it will not appoint politicians to government-linked companies (GLCs) and did not mention government institutions, the spirit of the promise was understood by the rakyat to keep politicians out of all public-interest institutions, not just GLCs.
In fact, it had been failing to keep its promise even if it was interpreted strictly as relating to GLCs. A research paper published by the Institute For Democracy and Economic Affairs last September found that the Selangor and Penang governments had appointed a large number of political leaders as board members in all strategic state GLCs and their subsidiaries.
Resorting to semantics to justify its actions clearly raises questions on its own. PH should stop pretending that it has done no wrong and do right by the voters who put them in power.
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