C4 Center calls for caution in inviting businesses to help constituencies

Caution urged: Minister’s invitation to businesses to ‘help’ constituencies defeats axing-out of money politics efforts, C4 supports reduced CDF move

PETALING JAYA, Feb 10 – The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) has urged for caution over Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil’s statement early this week calling upon the private sector to assist Members of Parliament (MPs) to ‘help’ their constituencies.

The minister issued the statement following the government’s reduction of backbencher MPs’ (constituencies) development allowances, which was confirmed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Feb 3 – from RM3.8 million to RM1.3 million, to allay the financial constraints currently faced by the country.

In a press statement today, C4 Center said it agreed with the government’s move to cut down constituencies’ development funds (CDF) and was aware that the expectations of an MP by constituents differ from that of a policymaker, but it also expressed that it was time to cultivate “our MPs and constituents to recalibrate their mindset towards effective policy-making, governance and management of the funds instead.”

“While the CDF represents a legitimate mechanism for development and an important tool for MPs’ involvement in grassroots community development, MPs’ main roles are as policy-makers and lawmakers, not occupying a majority of their time plastering potholes and other menial tasks that should remain the responsibility of the local councils and relevant ministries to execute.

“Allocation given to MPs should be used for research, staffing, advocacy, and town-hall sessions to generate public participation on policy issues. There is certainly more need to empower and encourage local councils and state governments to play a more effective role in local development and maximise any amount allocated by the government to serve the constituents.”

C4 Center said it acknowledged that Fahmi Fadzil had encouraged government-linked companies (GLCs) and companies to keep giving back to the communities via their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, which is a good reminder. “At the same time, we understand that the minister also mentioned he believed: “..we can think of ways to work closely with companies that have bigger profits, and that they would consider helping constituencies as part of their CSR efforts”. On the other hand, that should have been more intelligibly conveyed.”

The minister’s statement can easily be misconstrued and lead to grave consequences, risking the perpetuation of the political-business nexus, the anti-corruption organisation said.

“Already, the detrimental practices of rent-seeking and political patronage have become entrenched within the Malaysian political economy.

“When alluding to the idea of businesses ‘helping’ MPs in their constituencies, clarity is advised and caution to all public officials in their speech and actions is urged against giving rise to any opportunity for ‘personal relationships’ to be forged between politicians and business people, except for the purpose of formal engagement in policy-related efforts opened to public participation and scrutiny.”