Frankly Speaking: A good start

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on July 16, 2018 - July 22, 2018.
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Last Friday, pilgrim fund Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) welcomed a new leadership.

Tan Sri Mohammed Nor Md Yusof clocked in as its new chairman while Datuk Seri Zukri Samat reported for duty as its new managing director and group CEO.

In a refreshing change, the appointment of Mohammed Nor, former executive chairman of the Securities Commission Malaysia, institutionalises the appointment of a professional to the chairman’s post, which used to be held by politicians.

And like his new chairman, Zukri is a respectable banker of integrity. The choice of appointments is a good start to much-needed reforms at the pilgrims fund, which has seen a number of controversies in recent years.

Recall, for example, how LTH dipped into its reserves to sustain overly high bonuses despite its fluctuating financial performance. Bank Negara Malaysia eventually wrote the fund a warning letter in December 2015 about its negative reserves.

Earlier that same year, the fund got pulled into the 1Malaysia Development Bhd controversy. It had paid RM188.5 million for a 0.66ha plot from 1MDB to build a luxury residential property.

Such shenanigans are unbecoming of a fund that is tasked with managing the savings of Hajj hopefuls, which amounted to RM73 billion last year. It has more than nine million depositors.

Now that they have been given leadership roles, Mohammed Nor and Zukri should be allowed to do whatever is necessary to put things right at such a critical institution.

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