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Separate finance portfolio from MB and CM, states told
Published on: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

PETALING JAYA: The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) Monday called on all state governments in the peninsula to separate the finance portfolio from that of the chief minister or menteri besar.C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel said the separation was promised in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) election manifesto and already practised in Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's first Cabinet.

"What has been promised in spirit at the federal level must also be practised at the state level.

"C4 recommends that all state governments, especially in West Malaysia, also make similar changes in the spirit of reform that brought PH into power," she said in a statement.

Cynthia was responding to a statement by Sabah Chief Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal, who said he saw no conflict of interest in also holding the finance portfolio.

He also assured Sabahans that he "wanted to make sure state finances are on the right track".

"It doesn't mean that if I am holding the finance ministry, there will be a lot of abuse," he was quoted as saying last week.

Cynthia said the finance portfolio was particularly susceptible to abuse, and the risk was exacerbated as many states also owned and operated state investment firms.

These firms include Menteri Besar Incorporated (Perak), Warisan Harta Sabah (Sabah), Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (Selangor), and Chief Minister Incorporated (Penang).

Cynthia said many state governments, which had announced their executive council portfolios or Cabinets, still maintained the practice of the chief minister holding the finance or economic planning portfolio.

These include Sarawak, Selangor, Melaka, Johor and Terengganu.

The Penang state government bucked the trend by giving the economic planning/finance portfolio to its deputy chief minister II.

"While Sabah is not officially part of PH, we urge Shafie to consider transferring the portfolio out as a matter of good governance to instil the confidence required to prevent further mismanagement," said Cynthia.

"Assurances of a chief minister are insufficient. They must also be backed up with real change: transfer the portfolio to someone else in the Cabinet or state exco."

Cynthia also commended Mahathir for listening to public demands to abide by the PH manifesto not to hold any other ministerial post.

"Such a separation has a clear and logical reason. If there is anything that the 1MDB crisis has taught us, it is that such concentration of power opens up the avenue for abuse, and this has to be practised by state governments as well," she said.


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