OCT 9 — Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin believes that Malaysia will be successful in its war on corruption. This is an over-optimistic view.
The government seems to have strengthened its efforts in fighting corruption, including enforcing the Whistleblower Protection Act, establishing special corruption courts, listing those who have been successfully prosecuted for corruption offences on the MACC website, making public the bidding results of government projects, reducing business licences, and 128 corporates have signed the Corporate Integrity Pledge (CIP) to prevent corrupt practices in their companies. However, corruption remains serious, as the government has neglected loopholes in the law that have enabled corrupt practices among senior officials. There is no mandate requiring that senior officials declare their assets and the anti-corruption movement lacks credibility.
The impression of the general public on anti-corruption is, only small fish are convicted and even if the big ones are caught and charged, they would be released as senior officials involved in corruption know how to make themselves “innocent”.
MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Mohd Shukri Abdull pointed out a few days ago that, under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009, it is difficult to charge a decision making officer for corruption if there is no evidence showing him or her to have awarded government project contracts with interest conflicts.
It is why those who have awarded government contracts to their husbands or sons can evade getting caught. It is not necessary for the decision-making officer to attend the meeting when the decision is made, as other attendees would know what to do to impress him or her.
Not only subordinates and colleagues, but business operators also try to please officers who are high in ranking. Therefore, mentri besar can use their status to buy cheap land, houses or cars.
It is indeed hard to find evidence showing one has used his or her power to gain profits. For example, if some government agencies take the initiative to provide manpower and other resources to help the son of a senior official hold a wedding party, can we call it a corruption practice?
Shukri said that the MACC has charged many public officials under Section 23, but the loophole has enabled many big fish to get away. However, the government cannot just leave it and do nothing. Former Deputy Commissioner of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Daniel Li Ming-chak suggested at the 6th Annual Conference and General Meeting of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA) that Malaysia could consider charging crooked public officials for public misconduct, when corruption is difficult to prove.
If the government continues to tolerate such power abuse practices among public officials, it is very likely to lead to habitual organised and crony corruption, and eventually becomes a malignant tumour difficult to eradicate in the administrative system.
In addition, whether there is a mandate requiring senior officials to declare their assets will be enough to affect the outside world’s judgement upon the government’s anti-corruption determination. No asset declaration means the lack of transparency, and it allows senior officials to play tricks behind the scene.
If the MACC lacks manpower to watch over public officials, members of the public can assist the law enforcement units through the asset declaration system.
Under the existing laws, it is helpless even if the people know that children of a high-ranked official are keeping hundreds of millions ringgit in their bank accounts.
To win the war on corruption, members of the society of all levels must work together. When the people doubt the government’s corruption eradication commitment, they would not take initiative to report and stay away from corruption, while those practising corruption would not believe that they would be caught.
How could we say that we will definitely win the war on corruption when the credibility of the anti-corruption movement is low? — MySinchew.com
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.