Health Gets Its Own Parliamentary Special Select Committee

The 15th Parliament has a Dewan Rakyat special select committee to monitor health exclusively. The Galen Centre says parliamentary special select committees can propose amendments before bills are formally tabled, citing the tobacco bill as an example.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 – The Dewan Rakyat today approved the formation of 10 parliamentary special select committees (PSSCs) for the 15th Parliament, including one that covers health exclusively. 

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said today said that the Parliamentary Select Committee has proposed 10 PSSCs, as follows:

  1. Finance and economy
  2. Health
  3. Domestic trade, entrepreneurship, cost of living, and agriculture
  4. Infrastructure, transport, and communications
  5. Nation building, ethnicity, education, and human resource development
  6. Women, family and community development
  7. Environment, science, and plantations
  8. Security
  9. International relations and international trade
  10. Human rights, elections, and institutional reforms

“The parliamentary select committees act as a check-and-balance mechanism on ministries,” Azalina told the Dewan Rakyat today.

In the 14th Parliament, health was bundled with science and innovation in a PSSC, headed then by Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.

Azalina did not announce the PSSC chairmen or members in Parliament today. 

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said having a PSSC specifically for health to provide oversight was critical. 

“The need for a parliamentary special select committee on health goes beyond just the immediate issue of providing oversight to and evaluation of the government’s management of existing health concerns,” Azrul said in a statement.

“We also have long outstanding and urgent issues related to health care reforms, infrastructure gaps in Sarawak and Sabah, management of health care workers, health care financing reforms, pandemic preparedness, and the escalating cost of health services which need informed debate, discussion and political commitment. 

“Too many of these issues have been kicked down the road for decades for the next government and health minister to figure out.”

Azrul noted that the previous health, science and innovation PSSC led by Dr Yii showed how parliamentary select committees could help shape bills and proposed regulations, such as the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill that has yet to be re-tabled in the 15th Parliament.

“The previous high standards set for the PSSC should be maintained,” he said, adding that PSSCs had the potential to introduce proposed amendments to bills before they are formally tabled in Parliament. 

The Galen Centre also urged the Parliament to open up proceedings of PSSCs to the general public, instead of remaining secret by convention.

“It is frustrating that we can easily attend most meetings of parliamentary select committees of other countries such as the United Kingdom, but are prohibited to do so in Malaysia unless invited. This should change. It is important that people who would like to view and be informed on issues of interest be able to do so.”

The Ministry of Health (MOH) regularly gets among the biggest annual federal allocations, after the Ministry of Education. MOH was allocated RM36.3 billion in the 2023 budget.  

MOH also employs the largest workforce in the public sector, numbering at nearly 275,000 positions in 2021, of which 256,147 were filled.

Health in the public sector, however, is not limited to MOH, as the Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Defence run their own university and military hospitals respectively.

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