PAC hearing on 1MDB should be open to the public, says anti-graft watchdog

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(May 11): The Public Accounts Committee's (PAC) probe on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) should be open to the public, says Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) executive director, Cynthia Gabriel.

In welcoming the announcement by PAC chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed that an independent probe would be carried out on the controversial dealings of the state strategic development company, she said making the investigation plans known to the public, is the first step towards real transparency.

“What we are missing, utterly and completely, in this government is accountability. Public institutions must lead the way,” she said in a statement today.

Nur Jazlan today confirmed that PAC will begin its probe next week on May 19 by calling the Treasury's secretary-general Tan Sri Irwan Serigar Abdullah to give his statement.

Others expected to record their statements with PAC include Economic Planning Unit (EPU) director-general Datuk Seri Dr Rahmat Bivi Abdullah, 1MDB chief executive officer (CEO) Arul Kanda Kandasamy and his predecessor Datuk Shahrul Ibrahim Halmi, who served the company from March 2009 until March 2013.

Cynthia said opening the PAC probe to the public would set an "unprecedented level of openness" and foster greater participation in public administration affairs in this country.

"Transparency in turn breeds accountability and accountability is the bedrock of good governance," she said, adding that the move would also elevate civic consciousness.

She also urged PAC to clarify and publish the scope of the investigation to level off expectations against the Auditor-General's (A-G) investigations.

"We need to urgently rebuild our nation’s honour and inspire public confidence once again," she said.

PAC members, comprising eight parliamentarians from Barisan Nasional and five from the opposition, unanimously decided to begin proceedings into the debt-ridden state investment firm, in a special meeting held on April 30.

The PAC previously said that it would wait for the A-G's report before embarking on its own probe.

Nur Jazlan said PAC could not wait for the A-G's report on the troubled company as there was too much speculation by the public over the investment firm's financial standing.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is also the chairman of 1MDB's advisory board, had ordered the A-G to look into the company's books, saying that the report would be passed for transparency inspection to the PAC.

Criticism has been mounting over the wholly-owned Finance Ministry investment vehicle, established in 2009, which has chalked up debts of up to RM42 billion.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah previously disclosed that Putrajaya had approved an RM950 million standby credit facility for 1MDB, of which RM600 million has been used.

Scrutiny has grown more intense following whistleblower site Sarawak Report's recent exposés which piled pressure on Najib and prompted opposition politicians, former Umno leaders and anti-graft bodies to demand a thorough investigation of the fund. – The Malaysian Insider