Home TA Online 2013 TA Online Najib lacks critical element of leadership in curbing graft

Najib lacks critical element of leadership in curbing graft

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The just concluded 13th general election has shown that Malaysians are not happy with the government’s approach in fighting corruption, observes Ronald Benjamin.

Najib must step down pending a probe
Najib has not put in place a culture that abhors corruption

The appointment of Paul Low from Transparency International as a deputy minister has brought about various reactions about his ability to fight graft in Najib’s administration.

Barisan Nasional apologists have pointed to the Najib’s administration creation of institutions to fight graft and its key results areas as evidence to show the government is serious in combating graft.

But are institutions, systems and procedures adequate in fighting corruption at the highest levels of government? For example, how did the MACC react when there was promise of more cash through BRIM to entice voters to support the government? Does this not show that corruption is indeed cultural and systemic since it comes from the highest level?

Why is it that former ministers are charged for corruption only after they have left office? Why is it so difficult to expedite an investigation on alleged corruption by political elites in Sarawak, when there are institutions, systems and procedures in place? Evidence has been forthcoming, but action seems to be difficult. It is only by asking the right questions that a quality solution could be found.

It is obvious that the root cause of the lack of effectiveness in fighting graft at the highest level is due to the lack of leadership and an endemic culture of corruption that believes that monetary rewards are effective tools in gaining people’s support.

Najib would not be able to clean up corruption in the government, which requires the support of people, as he has made a lot of ethical compromises. He has not put in place a tough leadership culture that can influence his ministers and the MACC to act without fear or favour. For example, if the highest ranking leader of a government is not able to set a right example by declaring his assets to the public and directing his ministers and chief ministers to do the same, nothing concrete can be achieved.

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If there is going to be a face-saving culture that protects sitting ministers and chief ministers who misuse public funds and tolerates the illicit outflow of funds from the country, it would be difficult to curb corruption – an endeavour which should start from the highest level.

It is puzzling to see debates in the media on how the MACC should fight corruption. The debate should be about how the right ethical culture can be inculcated among cabinet ministers, whose clear direction and integrity would create a positive cultural context for the MACC and civil servants to function effectively without fear and favour.

While it should be acknowledged that the MACC has made tangible improvement in its organisation, there is much to do with respect to the intangibles like building an effective work culture of excellence that values independence in word and deed.

The just concluded 13th general election has shown that Malaysians are not happy with the government’s approach in fighting corruption. Civil society and the politically enlightened should press the Najib administration to pursue a culture of fighting graft – which should start from the prime minister and his cabinet ministers.

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