Following the controversial Felda land transaction in Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur, the government has introduced a new administrative measure to regulate and control unwarranted GLC land transfer.

Henceforth, all land transactions by GLCs must first seek the “blessings” of the finance ministry and, in the case of GLCs owned by state governments, the respective state menteri besar or chief minister.

It is not wrong to introduce new measures to tighten control. But I think the lesson learned from Felda’s land transfers ought to be more profound than that.

I don’t think introducing another layer of control will do much good if the whole governance issue is not looked at holistically.

At the moment, there are CEOs of GLCs, board of directors, financial controllers, legal advisers, auditors, laws governing contracts and land transactions, as well as oversight performed on GLCs by government agencies and ministries.

My question is why are they all ineffective? Where and how did they go wrong?

If wrongdoers can circumvent all these hurdles, what is there to prevent them from overcoming a new administrative measure in the form of a letter from the finance ministry or a state MB or CM?

I think the issue is more complicated than that. First, the finance ministry or the state MB/CM may not have all the information needed to approve or deny the applications submitted by the GLCs.

Secondly, ironically, they have to depend on the advice and recommendations of the very GLCs they are considering for approval.

If we want good governance, all layers of administration must play their respective roles earnestly and effectively.

Usually, malfeasance cannot be committed by someone at the top single-handedly. There must be fear instilled or absolute loyalty demanded from the subordinates to collude and conspire.

An additional administrative letter from the finance ministry or a state MB/CM only means there is another layer of bureaucracy.

It does not say there is sufficient or correct information available for them to make a right decision.

The problem of poor governance is complicated. No doubt it has to do with the lack of clear and robust rules and procedures. But it is more than that; it has much to do with poor oversight, elements of corruption, a little feudalism, and a prevailing subservient mentality.

A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again (Alexander Pope).-FMT


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