Yesterday, a factory owner in Penang alerted me to the Penang Chief Minister’s response to a reader’s question in The Star.
(Reader) Your exco members are required to declare their assets but this has yet to be done.
(Chief Minister) We wanted to but the Prime Minister’s department communicated to my state secretary that they wanted uniformity. And since we want to maintain good federal relations, we are waiting for them to send us the new forms because we also want to declare openly.
If they do not give us the forms, we have to do this on our own but we do not want to use this issue to score political points.
The businessman told me he was not satisfied with the reason given for not yet undertaking the asset declarations to the public.
I too find the explanation hard to understand. There is no need to wait for “uniformity” and “forms” from KL. After all, the federal government is not known for its high standards of asset declarations to the public.
This is not an issue of whether to score political points. State government leaders are accountable to the people of Penang who voted them in – not to the BN government in KL. They should be declaring their assets to the public, not to Putrajaya.
When are the new forms coming? What happens if they don’t supply the forms? No asset declarations then?
There is no need to wait for KL. The Pakatan Rakyat state goverments can come up with their own standard form and policies.
Or the Penang government can just go ahead and get its leaders to declare their assets to the public. You know, take a sheet of paper; divide it into two columns; on the left put down “houses”, “motor vehicles”, “bank accounts”, “savings, shareholdings and investments”, “insurance policies” – stuff like that. And then get all the top officials in the state government and senior state civil servants to describe their assets, in the column on the right. Put the completed forms in a file, available for public inspection. Nothing complicated really. Or you can emulate the format used in other countries with high standards of public accountability.
This is a simple thing which can be done straight away to build public confidence in the integrity of state government officials. The whole idea of declaring assets is to show the public what assets the leaders had at the beginning of the term so that they can be compared with their assets at mid-term or five years later. This is what CAT is all about. If the asset declarations are only done much later, it would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise.