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Monday, May 25, 2009
One of the first things that UMNO prime ministers promise when they are first appointed is to eradicate corruption. The 2M administration introduced the Cekap Amanah Bersih slogan. This was quickly forgotten. 22 years later the public perception of corruption in all parts of the Government was so high that Abdullah administration made a similar promise. After ECM Libra and the Turkish yacht debacle, it is now the turn of the Najib administration. It is hard to believe any progress will be made after seeing the Najib administration’s response to public concerns about the RM 500 million submarine commission.
2 Size of the problem
The Pakatan Government in Selangor has managed to secure savings of over RM 80 million from PKNS alone in one year simply by introducing competitive open public tenders. One can only imagine the scale of losses over the past 50 years if all the Federal, State and Municipal expenditure is considered.
In England the public reaction to relatively small claims by elected representatives is sufficient to raise alarm bells. Here billions of ringgit is treated casually. The contemptuous way in which the previous Mentri Besar of Selangor treats the SELCAT inquiry into the Balkis accounts highlights why corruption is out of control.
3 The responsible agencies
Corruption in Malaysia is high. This is not due to weak laws. There is more than enough manpower. It is simply poor leadership.
Take MCAC. After the Adelaide incident a new Director General should have been appointed. Why is he still there? Take for example his attitude to the SELCAT inquiry. Consider the deluge of information that has entered the public domain. His refusal to take action even in such a public case reveals much about the modus operandi of MCAC.
Then there is the whole issue of prosecution powers. Looking at the Attorney General’s casual attitude to the Kugan death, there is little reason to feel any confidence that corruption will be brought under control in the near future. Even when overwhelming evidence is available and the charge is clear even to laymen, the Attorney General’s inertia is blatant.
The public view about the police does not need to be debated after the Ipoh incident. We know where they stand and their view about the law. What is confusing is that the police talk about public cooperation and the need for the public to come forward and assist the police. Look at the Irene Fernandez case and the particulars of the charge. Anyone who comes forward with inconvenient information faces high risks.
Finally the judiciary. Take the Lingam fiasco and the statement made by the Chief Justice on corruption in the courts. Now judges have also decided that they need not give written opinions. No record of judicial decisions needs to be maintained
These are the authorities responsible for eradicating corruption. From their track record it can be seen that there is much to be done.
4 Public Participation
Studies carried out in the field of forensic audit can teach us something about human nature.
Approximately 25% of employees are fundamentally honest under any circumstances. Approximately 15% of employees are fundamentally dishonest if given an opportunity.
The remaining 60% of employees will be dishonest if three conditions are satisfied – opportunities are available, there is little likelihood of getting caught and if caught are unlikely to suffer serious consequences and they are able to rationalize their dishonesty.
If dishonesty is obvious especially in leaders, if little or no penalties are incurred even in obvious acts of dishonesty, and numerous opportunities for dishonesty are created and preserved, it is not difficult to rationalise dishonest conduct.
The only difference between Malaysia and Zimbabwe (Mahathir and Mugabe) is Petronas. Petronas has been the reason why Malaysia has been able to tolerate corruption over the past 25 years.
A good example of how this has been done is seen in Terengganu where oil royalties have been diverted. Exactly where has the money gone? How was it spent?
Now we are told that Malaysia will soon become a net oil importer. If corruption continues on the same scale the future of the Malaysian economy is dim.
The model has been to award concessions to favoured companies. The documents are official secrets. No information on costs is publicised. The consumer and taxpayer is penalised after the work is completed. If the consumer resists making the payments demanded the taxpayer is forced to compensate. If the project fails the concession holder is bailed out. A good example is Indah Water. However previous experience does not trigger concern for future projects. The PKFZ fiasco is just the latest in a long line of failures experienced over the last 25 years.
7 What needs to be done
First of all bad laws need to be repealed. As far as corruption is concerned the Official Secrets Act must go. It could be replaced with an act covering state secrets only as far as national security is concerned. The Act does not protect secrets. It is there only to protect officials.
The whole concept of the an Attorney General’s unfettered discretion with regard to prosecution cannot be right. In an open and shut case like Kugan or Balkis the Attorney General must be compelled to prosecute. The best thing to do is to establish a separate Director of Public Prosecutions answerable to Parliament. At the same time the practice of selective prosecution must be curbed. A good example is Irene Fernandez. What was served by prosecuting her? Now we have immigration detention centres again in the limelight with people dying from obscure diseases caused by rat urine.
The Auditor General’s reports must be taken seriously. Any kind of leakage must be investigated. Take PKFZ. No one can understand the problem in prosecuting the people responsible. Exactly how much was lost? What steps are being taken to recover the monies diverted?
8 The Judiciary
The judiciary has been under a cloud for over 2 decades. This is not some isolated comment from a fringe group of dissidents. It is also not tied to some isolated event. Again and again we see even more absurd and ridiculous conduct.
The latest turns on Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution. Let me ask just what is needed to understand this clause.
The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court.
Is it possible for anyone to misunderstand this clause? No one can be that incompetent.
Then we have the Lingam judges. These are the judges expressly mentioned in the Lingam conversation. These are the judges identified for appointment as high court judges and now elevated to the Court of Appeal. Let there be no doubt that their actions will be closely monitored. We already have a clear exhibition of their conduct in the Perak MB vs MB case.
Then we have the Statement made by a Chief Justice on corruption in the Judiciary and his own actions while in legal practice of having to pay bribes to expedite his cases. Karpal Singh has already highlighted this issue. Yet all we have is complete silence in the hope that the Malaysia mudah lupa prayer will work. Judges must simply be forced to abide by their own Code of Ethics and some means must be available to remove judges who blatantly violate this Code.
It is these kinds of situations that enable the man on the street to rationalise that corruption is rampant and that there is little need to display any kind of personal honesty in his day to day dealings.
Let me be absolutely clear. Any form of corruption must be addressed especially in people in positions of trust and responsibility.