One would have thought that we Malaysians would have learnt our lesson after the greatest financial scandal and illegal money laundering activity took place on our shores and placed us in lists of the top 10 most corrupt countries. One would have thought that the resulting anger, horror and shame would have made us more careful in the control and scrutiny of our Government’s financial dealings, whether at the Ministry or department level.
But no — not at all.
The appointment of a non-auditor as our new Auditor-General is clear proof that we do not care about our country. That’s the amazing thing about our Prime Minister: his influence and powers of persuasion are so monumental that no one dares to tell him what he has done is wrong. This includes even the Conference of Rulers, since the appointment of an Auditor-General requires the Rulers’ agreement.
The Prime Minister’s transformative powers are so overwhelming that he has not only been able to persuade PAS leaders to support him after 60 years of political rivalry, but has also convinced a senior Opposition leader of a party that makes its name fighting for integrity and public accountability that there is nothing wrong with appointing a non-accountant as Auditor-General. This senior leader was reported to have said that as the new Auditor-General would have experts helping her, there is no reason to doubt her ability to discharge her duties and responsibilities properly.
With this sort of cavalier attitude from our politicians the Prime Minister can continue to rule the country as he likes. Even a public company requires an audit committee chaired by a reputable auditor, but in Malaysia the federal and state governments can be audited by a non-auditor. We all know that the scope of a government audit is broader, far more complex and diverse compared to a private sector audit because the demand for compliance is far greater. Yet our Parliamentarians are happy to hand this task to a non-auditor.
The Constitution and the Audit Act 1957 put an onerous burden on the Auditor-General. It’s not just about auditing financial statements and carrying out a performance audit. The Constitution requires the Auditor-General to carry out a compliance audit as well, which requires the Auditor-General to ensure the activities of departments and Ministries comply with our laws and regulations. The Auditor-General is also duty-bound to inform members of Parliament if the Government is doing its job properly. That’s why the Auditor-General’s Report is tabled (although not debated) in Parliament.
A more responsible Parliament and Parliamentarians would have greeted this new appointment with disgust. They should still assemble and protest, and even march to the Palace. They should show their stand without fear because this appointment is frankly shocking. It shows the depth of the Prime Minister’s disregard for Parliament.
After 1MDB, Parliament requires a full, accurate and comprehensive report from a competent and qualified Auditor-General who has the integrity to tell us the truth about the Government’s financial affairs. We will not get this from a non-auditor, who also happens to be the wife of someone who would die for the Prime Minister.