Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) urges Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) to disclose all relevant financial information related to its recent purchase of land at the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) from 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Malaysia’s second sovereign wealth fund after Khazanah Nasional Berhad, 1MDB has accumulated debts totalling RM 42 billion.
The primary function of the Malaysian Haji Pilgrims Fund Board is to facilitate Muslims’ savings for the pilgrimage to Mecca. Thus, such excessive investment spending on the purchase of land and other deals should be made transparent by making the information readily available to the public before the leaks of the deal from the social media. Lack of openness and transparency in the high value investment creates vulnerability for corruption. When the investment decision is not being conducted according to rigorous, open and transparent procedures, it can offer extremely lucrative opportunities for self-enrichment to officials who are involved in the decision-making process.
This episode also serves to show how the Official Secrets Act (OSA) can be misused for the wrong reasons. TI-M has repeatedly called for a more open, inclusive government policy with regards to access to information. In this instance, any whistle-blower(s) must be protected without the threat of the OSA being used against them. Instead priority should be given to investigate whether any irregularities occurred in the business transactions, if the purchase was made according to standard procedure and if the price paid by LTH was reasonable and fair value.
One of the most important objectives of Islam is to promote justice in human society. Corruption in any means or form should be rejected categorically. Avoiding excessive, wasteful and corrupt procurement practices requires high levels of transparency and accountability in budgeting and financial evaluation. There is an urgent need for LTH to ensure strong governance measures and oversight practices are in place to ensure that all investment activities adhere to high governance standards, resulting in an open and visible decision making process.
Dato’ Akhbar Satar
Transparency International Malaysia
Transparency International-Malaysia is an independent, non-governmental and non-partisan organisation committed to the fight against corruption.