Side Views

Middleman in revolving door — Lim Sue Goan

DEC 30 — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has made another move to arrest middlemen and grafters.

“Middlemen” play a key role in many corruption scandals. They are the medium connecting those who offer and receive bribes.

In the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) issue, a Datuk, allegedly tried to bribe several investigating officers with RM1.7mil, has been detained. He is neither a relative to Wanita Umno Chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil or her husband, nor a staff member of the NFC. He is just a recruited middleman.

Who gave him the large sum of money? He even audaciously called the investigations officers to ask whether they have received the money or not.

The Datuk also involves in another case of fraud. He allegedly asked and received RM280,000 consultation fees from a Malay businesswoman by using an excuse of helping her obtain the right to operate a petrol station. An operation licence is required to operate a petrol station. Does the suspect have accessibility to related government departments?

The husband of a former top official of Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB) allegedly asked and received RM1.6 million from Detect Engineering Sdn Bhd as an inducement to get a tender project from the IIB through a middleman. Also, a former senior vice-president of the IIB subsidiary was charged with corruption involving the construction of a RM124mil highway.

Receiving bribes through a middleman could avoid being caught, just like deposing bribe into a relative’s or friend’s account. However, once the middleman is caught, the mastermind would be in a trouble, too.

There are many projects in the Iskandar region and naturally, many would take advantage of it. Therefore, the Finance Ministry should step up supervision and improve transparency or the government might have to bear more losses resulted from illegal deals.

Middlemen in the two cases had acted so unscrupulously and they have reminded me of the 2009 Transparency International Global Corruption Report. The report pointed that a complex network of contacts, including UMNO politicians, Transport Ministry’s officials, Port Klang Authority officials and the main contractor, was involved in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. The report also described the common thread running through politics, the civil service and private sector as a “revolving door”.

The description is in fact still applicable to current relationship between politics and business. The report stated: “Individuals move from government to business or business to politics and back again. Such a thread, in effect, negates the concept of check and balance.” Corruption is of course serious when politics is not separated from business.

Malaysia had shown a decline in its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) score released by the Transparency International for the third consecutive year. The score is also the lowest over all these years. Is the MACC trying to improve after a reflection or is it because the next general election is approaching?

The MACC had tried to rebound in the past but it fell silent soon after a period of time. To be honest, it is quite impossible for the MACC to overcome a dysfunctional system.

Therefore, implementing structural reforms and eliminating the thread between politics and business would be the primary agenda of next year. —

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.


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