Previously I pointed out what’s missing in the discourse about the Auditor General’s Report for 2012. Here I will point out how focusing on missing guns has diverted us from the real issue. I will also point out some salient features of audit reports.
I am writing this post because I read in Malaysiakini that Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said “more and more people now trust the police,” and said we should stop discussing guns lost by the police.
The missing guns
Concerning the missing guns, Malaysiakini reports that Zahid said:
"I know the loss was not due to a breach of trust, deviant acts or elements of bribery," and "It is because of carelessness and mistakes made in the line of duty."
Well, this is the same Zahid who asserted, before any investigation, that the police were not involved in the shooting of Sanjeevan whose published mission was to ‘expose’ the police. It’s hard to take Zahid seriously, for reasons I’ve outlined elsewhere.
In parallel, the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, has responded to reporters on the same subject.
According to The Malaysian Insider, Khalid said “the missing guns . . . could have fallen into the sea from boats and the weapons could not be recovered.”
One of my friends observed that some Chinese say “fallen into the sea” to indicate practical wisdom: “it’s happened, that’s life, let’s just let it go.”
I doubt Khalid was thinking of the Chinese idiom, for he mentioned boats and alluded to on-the-spot decisions made not to recover the submerged guns.
According to Free Malaysia Today, Khalid said that subsequent to the Auditor General’s Report, seven of the missing guns had been recovered. The same article reports that Khalid said “the missing guns could also be due to police negligence and car break-ins.”
Teresa Kok, the Member of Parliament for Seputeh and “One Woman Malaysian Book of Records” used the missing guns to take a swipe at the Prevention of Crime Act.
Teresa suggested that the guns lost by the police could have been used in a spate of armed attacks which Malaysia has experienced in recent months.
Teresa used the missing guns as leverage to challenge Zahid’s aggressive moves to re-introduce detention without trial, a la ISA and EO.
Khalid and Zahid appear to be using Teresa’s comments to divert attention from the real issue of mismanagement in the police force. And the media are playing into their hands.
The real issue
Concerning the losses (mainly 156 handcuffs, 44 firearms and 29 vehicles), here’s the complete list of weaknesses listed in the Auditor report:
i. Delay in detecting the loss of assets; ii. Head of Department delayed in preparing the Initial Report on the loss of assets; iii. Delay in forming the Investigating Committee For Loss Of Assets; iv. Investigating Committee For Loss Of Assets delayed in preparing the Committee Final Report; v. The Secretariat for The Loss And Write-Off Committee delayed in taking follow-up actions on reports of assets lost; vi. Delay in taking action by the Police Contingent upon approval of the write-off by the approving authority; vii. Delay in taking action for the surcharge process; viii. Secured storage space for assets was not provided for; and ix. Space for storing assets was limited.
The word “delay”
Auditors are extremely careful with their choice of words. The word delay has been selected to do service in six consecutive sentences. And most people still miss the point!
The frequent occurrence of the word “delay” is a signal to the reader that an extremely serious issue is being reported.
The police lack a sense of urgency
The list and the words indicate that the auditors noted a lack of urgency across the organization, spanning processes, levels, with the delays cumulating to years.
It’s hard to disagree with the auditors if we frame the issue in this way:
A killing weapon is lost and, on multiple occasions, it takes in excess of 2 years to conclude ‘cause unknown.’ The losses occurred at an average rate of about once per month.
There were delays in detection, delays in investigation, delays in reporting, delays in decision-making, delays in implementation.
The auditors suggested a potential reason for the losses: “secured storage space.” Any auditor knows this must have been said by police personnel during the audit.
That’s the police force which Zahid says “more and more people now trust.”
The auditors’ said: “Overall management of loss of assets in Bukit Aman Police Headquarters and three Police Contingent (IPK) was unsatisfactory.”
Again, ‘unsatisfactory’ is an extremely strong word, standing right next to the worst possible rating, ‘negligent.’
Do Zahid and Khalid have the courage to face the truth about the state of the Police Force?
When will they tell the public what they will do to address unsatisfactory management in Bukit Aman? – October 5, 2013.
* Rama Ramanathan reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.