FT Ministry urged to tighten scrutiny of government agency board members

THE recent debacle over the appointment of two bankrupt individuals to the boards of two government agencies in Kuala Lumpur has raised questions about the vetting process and the integrity of government agency boards.

Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who was a DBKL advisory board member for 16 years, said there was no rigorous background check of board appointees during his stay at the hotel of town.

“There was a simple check to see if there were any police cases, but that was it. I don’t even remember signing a declaration document.

READ ALSO : Bankrupt DBKL Excise Licensing Board Member Relieved of Duty

“But things are different now with more members nominated by political parties.

“There should be a proper verification process in place,” he said, adding that it was necessary in the interests of good governance and to inspire public confidence.

Recently, Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng asked Federal Lands Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim to explain the appointment of a bankrupt to the DBKL Excise Board.

Lee said appointees should be honest and declare their interests.

READ ALSO : Shahidan asked to explain bankrupt appointee to DBKL board

DBKL advisory board member Datuk Zainal Abidin Mohd Rafique said he signs a personal statement every year and believes others should do the same.

“Agencies can’t check everyone’s background, even though they have a screening process in place.

“I personally know people who have been vetted to sit on certain boards but then failed the SPRM vet so the responsibility should lie with the individual.

“If he is declared bankrupt after his appointment, then he should leave,” Zainal added.

MCA DBKL Federal Territories Affairs Office Chief Banie Chin said there were also cases of people appointed to serve on such boards who were cleared at the verification stage but were declared bankrupt. later.

“It happens a lot in business, but once you know you’re bankrupt, you have to quit immediately,” he said.

Chin, who was a member of DBKL’s advisory board, said it showed the person was honest.

Lim said DBKL should publicly reveal other insolvent appointments and staff.

Solicitor Derek Fernandez said anyone holding public office was subject to the Insolvency Act 1967 and if he was an undischarged bankrupt he could not be appointed to such a board.

“If at the time of verification and appointment to the board he was not bankrupt, that is consistent with his statement. But if he goes bankrupt afterwards, he will have to leave.

“He has done nothing wrong unless you can prove he was bankrupt at the time of the appointment. Bankruptcy is a time consuming process and during that time anything can happen in a business,” he said.

Fernandez said that when a person was named, they had to sign a document under oath.

Agencies will have done basic research to check a person’s background and will also rely on their sworn document.

It was reported that S. Gobi Krishnan was appointed to the Excise Licensing Board of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) while Datuk Affendi Zahari served as Chairman of Kampung Baru Development Corporation (KPB), and it was declared bankrupt last October.

Affendi quit his post in June after the affair came to light. The position has remained vacant ever since. Both appointments fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Department of Lands.

Yesterday, Shahidan confirmed the cancellation of Gobi Krishnan’s term in a statement to StarMetro after getting confirmation from the insolvency department.