By LESTER KONG
PETALING JAYA: Civil servants should be open to being questioned over public funds, such as the inquiry by the state government’s Select Committee on Competency, Account-ability and Transparency (Selcat).
Several heads of non-governmental organisations (NGO) have also called for more public accounting of civil servants when it comes to the way taxpayers’ funds are handled and to investigate alleged wrongdoings.
Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Paul Low said having third-party committee members independent of the state executive council was also a good idea.
“It is all right for Selcat to hold their questioning publicly but it should not be a witch-hunt,” he told The Star yesterday.
“Doing it publicly is meant to find out the truth and instill accountability.”
Selangor PAS commissioner and executive councillor Datuk Dr Hasan Ali recently called for Selcat to be revamped, saying its investigative techniques degraded the dignity of those being questioned.
Subsequently, Dr Hasan came under fire from his Pakatan Rakyat colleagues in the state, and has been told by the Mentri Besar, the Selangor palace and his own party members to explain his comments.
Cuepacs president Omar Osman said Selcat had to remember to adhere to the state government’s General Orders, which provide for how the state should react to suspected wrongdoings among civil servants.
“Yes, Selcat has the authority to investigate misuse of public funds and wrongdoings among civil servants.
“But it must also abide by the General Orders in a way that does not tarnish the image of the civil service,” he added.
Face-saving was a trivial issue compared to upholding accountability and the duty of a public servant, said Fomca secretary-general Muhd Sha’ani Abdullah.
“If the public servant fails in his duties to advise his political masters, it’s more detrimental to the state government than not getting respect,” he said.
Muhd Sha’ani said similar to a court hearing, public servants should not expect special treatment when Selcat questioned them.
Suhakam vice-chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun said he did not see what rationale or reasoning there was for the senior civil servants to complain to Dr Hasan that they were being questioned “harshly”.
“What is harsh to one person is not to another person. It is all very subjective. Civil servants should know their duties and responsibilities as good and responsible servants of the public,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gerakan Youth expressed shock that DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had not commented on whether disciplinary action should be taken against Dr Hasan.
Youth chief Lim Si Pin said Lim’s silence was like “sweeping their fallout under the carpet”.
“Rightfully, Guan Eng should come out to defend his party colleague Teng (Chang Khim),” he said in a statement yesterday.