Lessons from the recent High Court judgment
Over the past few days, much has been said about a judgment by a High Court in Shah Alam for various charges under the MACC Act and the Penal Code. It was ruled that there was no prima facie case as there was no credible evidence proving each element of the offence.
Many lessons can be drawn from the judgment of the learned judge.
1. To get a government contract or speed things up, one can write directly to the highest authority i.e. the PM and it will be on the record.
2. For contract extensions, one can write directly to the line minister and will get it timed down.
3. We still have diligent officials like the Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior.
4. Ministers may overrule suggestions made by diligent officials.
5. A Minister’s recorded comment is not a directive even if it is expedited.
6. I don’t know how the machinery of government works! A policy document recommending an extension was to be forwarded to the Kerjasama Awam Swasta Unit (UKAS or PPP Unit) and the cabinet was prepared one month after signing a supplementary agreement for the said extension.
7. The private secretary of a minister can write directly to the secretary general of any ministry.
8. The prosecution was not sufficiently thorough – as it did not produce evidence of envelopes, drivers, guards, police, phone call logs and messages containing significant details of the charged under the MACC Act and the Penal Code.
9. The Prosecution relied heavily on “donor side” witnesses who proved neither reliable nor credible.
10. Many Witnesses themselves maintained a luxurious lifestyle.
11. “Recipients” of political donations include current and former ministers, politicians and civil servants. Politicians can get away with political funding, but what about government officials?
12. Almost RM240 million was distributed but never reported to the tax authorities or auditors and the learned judge said there is enough evidence to show that criminal offenses were committed. Documents filed by the company from 2015 to 2020 showed the company suffered losses for two years and posted small profits in others. Checks with the Companies Commission Malaysia reveal that the company is 100% owned by Sdn Bhd with a paid up capital of RM100. The company’s total revenue from FY 2015 to FY 2020 was RM92 million and payments from the “ledger” were close to RM240 million, more than RM70 million at least 11 politicians – from business partners and contractors in Hong Kong.
If indeed the contract was not lucrative, why the vigorous follow-up of a six-year extension?
Given the above, I think many would agree that the following should be on the agenda:
1. Review the processes and SOPs for contract award and extensions and also review the “financial health” of the company to which the contract has been awarded.
2. Avoid political intervention in awarding and extending contracts.
3. Review the comments recorded in the minutes by the Ministers to differentiate directive or “support”. “Support” must be clearly defined.
4. Approval processes in departments need to be reviewed, be clearly defined and eliminate shortcuts or “beat the system” where final approval is required by cabinet.
5. Prosecution teams should be retrained to ensure that every aspect of a case is carefully considered and tested and to leave no stone unturned, especially in high profile cases.
6. Devise a system to test the credibility of witnesses, especially key ones.
7. The relevant authorities should investigate the other “receivers” in the ledger, as the judge said there was sufficient evidence to show that criminal offenses were committed.
I am sure that public confidence in the justice system has been restored and it is now up to the parties involved in going to court to be fully prepared and professional.
What you say?
Saleh Mohammed reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the author or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. The article may be edited for brevity and clarity.