PETALING JAYA: A day after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki explained his ownership of a substantial number of shares in two companies several years ago when he was the director of investigations, the outcry persists with groups calling for a further probe into the matter.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB) must explain its decision to clear Azam of wrongdoing in the share purchase after “a single meeting”.

The think tank added that if the decision to absolve Azam could be made merely based on the explanation given by him, then the ACAB had failed to carry out its duties properly.

“While we welcome the fact that the ACAB finally responded to public calls for action by holding a special meeting on Nov 24, 2021, we are concerned that the decision made to absolve the MACC chief commissioner was based on a single meeting, without a thorough investigation,” said IDEAS in a statement.

It also said it was important for the oversight body to disclose which government policy or code of conduct it relied on to clear Azam of any wrongdoing.

IDEAS also called on the ACAB to explain to the public whether Azam had satisfied the criteria on asset declaration based on the relevant government circular.

IDEAS chief executive officer Tricia Yeoh said the absence of a comprehensive explanation as to how the decision was made and done transparently would erode the public’s trust in MACC as a critical institution for combating corruption in the country.

“Parliamentary oversight over MACC is even more imperative than ever. In addition, it is time the government introduced clear conflict of interest laws and regulations for all public servants with regard to assets they are allowed to own.

“There are also legitimate questions being raised as to the legality of the share purchase,” she said.

Anti-graft watchdog Rasuah Busters noted that “the weakness in the board’s investigations has given rise to the perception that the MACC has failed to act independently”.

The group’s secretariat chief Nurhayati Nordin noted in a statement that the group had made calls in September last year for a more open and independent MACC.

“The Prime Minister and Parliament are responsible for restoring the trust of the rakyat in the MACC,” she added.

Norhayati, however, reminded that slanderous statements against the MACC might prejudice actions to bring the culprits to justice.

“Every allegation and action must be verified by cogent evidence,” she said.

The president of Majlis Belia Malaysia, Jufitri Joha, also said the youth movement was not satisfied by the explanation over the controversy.

He suggested that an independent investigation committee headed by a former judge be set up to probe the issue.

“The committee must be set up immediately to give justice to the MACC apart from dispelling uncontrolled public perception over the image and integrity of the commission,” he said.