KUALA LUMPUR, 15 Dec 2008: Family members abetting relatives involved in graft will receive the same punishment as the guilty party as the term family member has been better defined under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Bill.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said under the bill, the term family members has been broadened to include spouses, children, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces and in-laws.
“Under the Anti-Corruption Act 1997 (ACA’97), in-laws, nephews and nieces, cousins, uncles and aunts are not included which makes prosecuting them difficult,” he said when tabling the bill for second reading in the Dewan Rakyat today.
He explained that the new provisions were included in Clauses 23 and 36 of the bill and offenders could be jailed not more than 20 years or fined not less than five times the monetary value of the bribe or a minimum of RM10,000, whichever is higher.
The penalty also applies to any foreign public official who abuses his position to accept bribes.
Mohamed Nazri said this came under Clause 22 of the Bill and was something new and in line with Article 16 of the United Nation’s Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which was ratified by Malaysia last September.
Besides this, Mohamed Nazri said the Bill also called for the abolishment of the minimum jail sentence contained in ACA ’97, set at 14 days.
However, the maximum at 20 years and minimum fine of RM10,000 remains unchanged.
On the same matter, Mohamed Nazri said the Public Service Department had approved the staff strength of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) from the 500 at present to 900 personnel next year.
The ACA’s staff strength would be gradually increased to reach 5,000 personnel in five years, he said, adding this would help the agency increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PKR-Permatang Pauh), who opened debate on the Bill, said he agreed it was timely but wanted adequate protection to be given to whistleblowers.
“Emphasis should also be given on this (whistleblowers’ protection). Othewise people will feel it is not worth their while providing information. As such, I ask that the Bill be reviewed further to address this.
“However, I wish to congratulate Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for introducing this Bill. It is a step in the right direction although many Pakatan Rakyat MPs feel more time should be given to scrutinise the Bill,” he said, adding that having introduced the Anti-Corruption Act himself in 1997 when he was deputy prime minister, he understood the difficulties faced in attempting to introduce reform bills.
Abdullah tabled the bill on 10 Dec to enable it to come into force in January.
Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau) concurred with Anwar on the matter of whistleblower protection.
“The bill ought to be strengthened further or separate bill introduced to address this aspect to allay fears of whistleblowers,” he said.
Datuk Razali Ibrahim (BN-Muar) was of the opinion that abolishing the 14-day minimum jail sentence was not wise and it might encourage corruption as people might think they could get away by just paying fines.
Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) said in principle he supported the bill but wanted debate on an important bill like this be done thoroughly to ensure proper scrutiny.
He asked the Dewan to set aside six days for this. — Bernama