Eradicating Corruption: The Way Forward


Dato’ Shafee bin Yahaya

Director General, Anti-Corruption Agency Malaysia

1. The Nature of Corruption

1.1 Defined simply, corruption is the misuse of public power for private profit.

1.2. In most corrupt practices, both the briber and bribee stand to gain illegally. Unlike in a crime of violence, there appears to be no aggrieved or bleeding victim to report to the law enforcers.

2. The Ravaging Effects of Corruption

Corruption breeds injustice, betrayal of trust, demeans the law, oppresses the less wealthy and influential, negates against cost-efficiency, is inimical to democratic ideals and anti-God.

3. Corruption in Malaysia

3.1. Based on reported cases of corruption and investigations carried out by the ACA over the last 20 years, there is a slight increase in the level of corruption in Malaysia. However, public talk, observations and perceptions ( no research survey has been done) portray the level of corruption and abuse of power as being serious enough as to galvanise the leadership to action.

3.2. Recent exposures of corruption in football. money politics and abuse of power by senior leaders in government administration have provided the impetus.

4. The Inadequacy of Current Measures

4.1. Until recently, national efforts at combating corruption had been generally left to the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), the Attorney General (A.G.) and the courts. Undoubtedly from time to time, the anti-corruption platform was raised in some public and political forums but few concrete and sustained anti-corruption measures were implemented. The national focus was on economic development.

4.2. However the tremendous socio-economic development changes brought about by the strong and stable government, also produced negative side effects in the form of social ills as well as criminal activities including corruption. Realising that these negative elements, if left unchecked, would negate all the economic achievements and jeopardise the attainment of a balanced and sustainable Malaysia under Vision 2020, the government has intensified efforts to address the social ills and to embark on an anti-corruption drive as a national effort.

5. Is The ACA Effective

Many questions have been raised in Parliament and in the media about the effectiveness of the ACA because specific corruption cases of public interest and cases involving politicians and high ranking officials have not been brought to court or the investigation process takes so long to complete. This public concern augurs well for the country in the anti-corruption efforts.

6. Challenges Facing The Nation

6.1. Being part of a community of nations, Malaysia's international 1 relations and transactions in the political, Information Technology (IT) and economic spheres with foreign governments and businesses, have not only contributed to the rapid economic growth but also the negative elements of secularism, individualism and business culture that helped breed, the social ills spawned by rapid changes in society.

6.2. To enable a comprehensive, effective and sustainable plan of action against corruption to be carried out, efforts must be made on a national scale that address the underlying as well as the outward manifestations and causes of corruption. In the Malaysian context, the multi-ethnic sociocultural and religious beliefs of the people have to be taken into account, apart from the normal measures advocated by western writers.

6.3. In brief some of the challenges that should be addressed are

a. the erosion of moral and ethical values;

b. the over materialistic and profit orientation in business;

c. the need for proper regulatory mechanisms in the interplay of business and government;

d. the need for - greater transparency, accountability and efficiency of the government administrative machinery;

e. the need for internal integrity systems within political parties, government agencies and businesses;

f. Problems in Procuring evidence Of corruption arising from the rapid development of IT;

g. cross-border corrupt transactions;

h. the need for regular reviews of anti-corruption laws to deal with the changing technology and international dimension of corruption;

i. the need for a credible, efficient and motivated anti-corruption agency;

j. the need for political stamina to sustain the anti-corruption and other measures;

k. the need for media and public support;

1. the need for the judicial institution which, whilst upholding the rule of law, is sensitive to changes in crime patterns and of societies expectations, and

m. the need for an integrated and holistic approach as well as establishing a national level policy and administrative machinery with practical blue prints of action, spread over time.

7. Current Government Plans And Actions

7.1. Having considered the past trends and current challenges, as well as the nations Vision 2020, the government has approved the policy and strategy paper on combating corruption by the ACA on 4 April 1997.

7.2. Amongst the main recommendations approved are

i. the strengthening and widening of the scope of reference of the Special Cabinet Committee On Integrity In Government Management, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, to formulate policies, strategies and approve action plans for a more concerted and integrated anti-corruption effort;

ii. the beefing up of the ACA in terms of manpower, logistics, incentives and training;

iii. amendments- to the anti-corruption laws to strengthen the powers of investigation, evidence admissibility and enhancing the penalties for corruption;

iv. the setting up of integrity, quality and productivity committees in major government departments as internal control systems; and

v. the need to address the erosion of moral and ethical values b the religious and educational agencies.

8. On-Going Reforms

8.1. It is to be noted that several ongoing reforms and programmes in the political, administrative, educational and religious sectors have contributed much to create an environment conducive for the success of the anti-corruption measures. These measures need to be enhanced within an integrated master 'plan of action. together with the anti-corruption efforts. The critical success factors would then be in place in our march to. attain the goals of Vision 2020, Insyaallah (God-willing).

9. Conclusion

The battle against corruption is a long drawn-out war. Small victories are needed to bolster confidence and credibility. Most of all political strength and leadership remain as the most critical factor.

Huai nan-Tzu : "the power to achieve success or failure lies with the ruler. If the measuring line is true, then the wood will be straight, not because one makes speacial effort, but because that which it is "ruled" by makes it so. In the same way if the ruler is sincere and upright, then honest offidals will serve in his government and s coundrels will go into hiding. But if the ruler is not upright then evil men will have their way and loyal men will refire to seclusion".

Anti-Corruption Agency


19th July 1997.

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