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Revamp MACC to give it real independence

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The MACC must be given real independence so that it can prosecute offenders without getting the nod from the Attorney General, writes Ronald Benjamin.

Image: unodc.org

The Malaysian Corruption Perceptions index has worsened for the third consecutive year to 4.3 from 4.4. That the country’s ranking has dropped to 60th out of 183 countries from 56th out of 178 countries last year is not surprising.

According to Idris Jala of Pemandu, the introduction of a new survey conducted to measure the propensity of Malaysians paying bribes to parties outside Malaysia has dragged the overall performance down. The question that the Malaysian public would like to ask Idris Jala: Is our foundation of fighting corruption so weak that a certain new survey could suddenly bring us tumbling down? Is the propensity of Malaysians to bribe parties outside Malaysia not regarded as corruption in this country?

To rein in corruption effectively, the MACC has to be conscious of the truth that the rot of corruption always starts from the the top. The MACC has built a reputation of reining in the corrupt at the tail end, and such a reputation is repeatedly reinforced when it delays or does not take action against prominent ministers who use excessive unaccounted funds during general elections.

The grand scale of corruption in Malaysia is very much linked to the culture of money politics, and the MACC is weak in confronting this problem. The MACC has also failed to investigate the process of defence procurement and cabinet decisions awarding projects, guaranteed by public funds, to parties with a conflict of interest. The unanswered questions surrounding the Scorpene submarine deals and the latest feedlot issue provide examples of the MACC’s lethargy in taking prompt action.

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The lack of prompt action has resulted in the lost of millions of public funds which is reflected in the Auditor General’s Report. What makes things difficult in Malaysia are the extensive links among the government, political leaders and business, and this requires a competent MACC that is able to rein in corruption at the roots.

The MACC must be given real independence so that it can prosecute offenders without getting the nod from the Attorney General. MACC leaders must be answerable to parliamentary inquiries. The current advisers of the MACC should resign as they are basically as ineffective as the former advisers because the environment and culture that prevent bold action remain.

Expecting great results while doing the same thing brings repeated failure – something that Idris Jala should reflect upon instead of blaming the new survey.

Ronald Benjamin, an Aliran member, is a human resources practitioner based in Ipoh.

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