Sunday, July 14, 2013

Integrity Unit in All Government Agencies...

The setting up an Integrity Unit to combat corruption in all government agencies (STM July 14 - Sunday) in Malaysia, is a very heartening news. While the MACC has been very active and had achieved much to reduce corruption in Malaysia, the country remains high on the list of countries plagued by this degenerative socio-economic malady. The interesting thing is that we also hear much about law enforcement officers "on-the-take" in many other developed countries. But the country as a whole remains low on the list. It reminds me of the legal joke very popular in the US, that a crime is only a crime if discovered and brought to court. (Otherwise it's not a crime, seems to be the obvious conclusion!).

At one time the Anti Corruption Agency or ACA as the central government agency dealing with corruption was known, was reputed to take action only on the small time law breakers - the little fries. The big sharks holding prominent positions in government or in the Malaysian society, were never brought to court. Why? Nobody knew for certain because sharks have the whole ocean to run around and hide while the ACA was only a small government agency. On becoming a full scale Commission with wide powers and investigative capacity the MACC had succeeded in recent years to pull in some big names in the government, including an ex-chief Minister. But as usual when the big fish are found guilty of a crime, the ocean of legal processes offer a lot of whirlpools and eddies to prevent them from receiving the full blast of the punitive waves. The big fish always escape from being caught and dried up in the sun like the small fries.

The Integrity Unit will offer a CCFTV effect within the agency it is set up. Provided the officers operating the Unit are really 'clean individuals' and free of any suspicion or protected against charges made by their compatriots within the same agency or outside of it, the Unit can certainly become a big scare - the fist thing in any preventive move. The second part of the scare is in the punishment accorded to those found guilty. We must take into account the general knowledge that intelligent criminals do no work alone. So, if all officers involved in a certain case were to be dismissed, government agencies might run the danger of losing many officers with every case brought up for investigation. Nevertheless, it is better to run a smaller agency with no corruption than a huge one with a lot of money going 'under the table'.

Now comes the big question. If all government officers have been cured of the disease through fear and the CCTV effect, yet corruption goes in national and international monetary transaction involving huge sums of money, whom must then be blamed? On must remember than governmental bureaucracy nowadays is not ruled by officers chosen and selected through the bureaucratic processes. Public Officials include those who come through the elective processes, elected by the people and the parties in power. Is the Malaysian public ready to take action on those that it has elected into power if they are found to be guilty of corruption? Especially when the legal processes are so intricate that the public cannot understand how the legal department works,such that many suspected officials cannot be brought to court for lack of 'substantial evidence'.

Clearly, integrity is an ethical thing. A crime against it cannot be enforced just at the agency level. It must be enforced at the national level involving officers both selected and promoted through the bureaucratic processes as well as those installed through the elective processes at both the State and party level.


abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
I am not sure whether this piecemeal approach in the war against corruption is not just like the proverbial icing on the cake. What is needed in our country is that the numero uno and all Cabinet members must have the political will to combat corruption. Taking a leaf from the British Government some time back, every Cabinet Minister make it public their declaration of assets on being newly appointed to the Cabinet of Her Majesty's Government. We could easily implement this but due to sheer lack of political will, it remains as Utopia. The example must be set from the top. Unless this is done, it remains unclear whether the political leaders are really serious in stamping out this scourge.

norzah said...

I must agree with you on the point that the implementation of the declaration of assets by officers and politicians holding public office, had not been enforced full heartedly. We can physically see that some politicians are rolling in newfound wealth, living up to the adage to the victors belong the spoil. All that i'm saying is that unless integrity is honored and rewarded from the very top, it will only become a matter of paying lip service to the term. You've said it better than me, Akhi Halim.

norzah said...
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