20/11/2023 10:23 PM

KUCHING, Nov 20 (Bernama) -- The State Legislative Assembly (DUN) today passes the Sarawak Ombudsman Bill 2023, that will allow the public to report maladministration to the state public service agency. 

Tabled by the Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, the groundbreaking bill was passed unanimously. 

During his winding-up speech at the assembly sitting here today, he said the report of the activities of ombudsman and investigation will be fully published in the legislative assembly including any finding, recommendation and opinion of the ombudsman.

“A Special Select Committee may be appointed upon a motion made under Standing Order to consider any matter arising from the report. Unlike the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the report made by the Ombudsman has legal force,” he said.

He said the state’s government-linked companies (GLCs) were not left out and subject to investigations and scrutiny of the Ombudsman. 

“On the right to remain silent and power of arrest… the procedures are meant for investigation of offences under the bill, it is not an investigation of complaint,” he said adding that a total of 22 assemblymen participated in the state legislative debate. 

The Ombudsman bill aimed to enhance transparency and accountability in government agencies, hence ensuring check-and-balance elements are in place as well as enabling the government to improve its public delivery systems and procedures.

When tabling the bill, Awang Tengah said the legal framework required for the Sarawak Ombudsman to efficiently perform their duties and authority in supervising the state public service agency, which encompasses the state civil service, local authorities, state statutory bodies, GLCs.

“The purpose of this bill is to give the Ombudsman, among others, the power to receive, investigate, and resolve complaints including to dismiss any baseless and frivolous complaint and recommend corrective or preventive action to be taken by a state public service agency,” he said. 

According to him, the bill has proposed offences such as intentionally giving false information, failure to appear upon receiving notice and wilfully obstructs, hinders or resists the ombudsman or any other person in the exercise of their powers. 

“The penalties that can be imposed upon conviction are fines ranging from RM10,000 to RM50,000 and imprisonment ranging from six months to three years respectively or to both,” he said. 

Apart from that, he said the ombudsman will be led by a Chief Ombudsman and a Deputy Chief Ombudsman, along with three to five other Ombudsmen who possess relevant expertise or experience to ensure its effectiveness.

“The appointment of these ombudsmen will be made by The Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud and they will take an oath of office for a maximum term of three years, with the possibility of reappointment. 

“The Sarawak Ombudsman’s office will be managed by a Chief Administrator, who is appointed by the minister from among the members of the state public service and he is to be assisted by such number of officers,” he added

He said that the ombudsman staff and others acting on their behalf are immune from civil and criminal proceedings in discharging their official duties.