KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 ― In its bid to transform Malaysia's image in the eyes of the world, the Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) is determined to get rid of its 'kleptocrat nation' label.
“What do people mean when they talk about the new Malaysia? Was Malaysia not good before this? After Merdeka, Malaysia became known globally and was highly respected because of its achievements.
“But over the last few years (before Pakatan Harapan formed the government) outsiders have been viewing Malaysia as if it was a kleptocratic nation,” said GIACC deputy director-general Datuk Dr Anis Yusal Yusoff.
He said the perception has made some Malaysians too embarrassed to say which country they are from when they travel overseas.
“We want to take Malaysia back to the era when it was well-known not for corruption but for its success and achievements,” he said.
GIACC was established last year under the Prime Minister's Department to coordinate and monitor governance, integrity and anti-corruption activities in the country.
The centre is also responsible for planning, formulating strategies and evaluating policies to ensure that all government affairs adhere to the principles of good governance, integrity and zero-corruption.
Focus on public services
Speaking to Bernama in an interview here, Anis Yusal said according to data from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, more than 60 per cent of corruption cases involved the public services sector. And, almost 42 per cent of this sector's cases involved public procurement.
“That's why we're putting our focus on public services first. In the public procurement division, for instance, it is easy for people to cheat, modify and elevate the costing. The annual audit reports also record such goings-on,” he said.
However, he added, this did not mean that non-civil servants were not involved in bribery.
“Just think... if 60 per cent of (corruption) cases involve civil servants who are caught for taking bribes, then a similar number (of people outside the civil service) are also handing out bribes,” he said.
Reforming the relevant systems, procedures and mechanisms to curtail the menace is one thing but changing the character and attitude of the people prone to corruption is another thing.
“We can improve the system but what if the people don't change their ways?” he asked.
Promote integrity, good governance
To date, GIACC has approved the implementation of 100 anti-corruption initiatives, not including the 115 initiatives outlined in the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) which was launched in January this year to promote integrity and good governance within the political and public sector administrations.
“We've already achieved a lot in our fight against corruption and abuse of power within this first year (of operations).
“This can be seen in the series of arrests that have been made and court cases involving people holding offices at different levels,” Anis Yusal said, adding that studies are also being carried out to identify the real causes of the scourge of corruption.
On NACP replacing the National Integrity Plan, which was introduced in 2004 to encourage Malaysians to cultivate ethical values, he said the previous plan's failure to combat corruption called for a new and more relevant approach to check the issue.
“Why do we want to stick to inculcating ethical and integrity values when abuse of power and corruption continue to be rampant? The approach we're taking today is to focus on the real problems and wipe out the causes of the problems.
“To give an analogy, we can't dish out the same dietary advice to people suffering from chronic and severe diabetes and those at risk of getting diabetes. If it is already too late, then a different approach is needed,” he explained.
Addicted to unethical practices
Admitting that it is not easy to change something that was once ingrained in the work culture, Anis Yusal said there must be no let-up in the efforts to combat corruption even though it would take a long time to see real changes.
He said anyone, regardless of their background, can be blinded by money, power and rank.
Referring to a 2016 case involving two top officials of a government department in Sabah from whose homes and offices cash amounting to millions of ringgit and jewellery were seized, Anis Yusal said: “It (corruption) actually is a disease. How can one hoard so much of money in his house and office without feeling a shred of guilt?
“They didn't think of the implications of their actions. They are 'sick' and 'addicted' to accumulating their ill-gotten gains by repeatedly misusing their power. Why is it that people in our society are addicted to such unethical practices? We must identify the root cause so that we can treat the problem by using the proper techniques.”
Once Malaysia is able to check cases of corruption, abuse of power and integrity-related misconduct, it would not be impossible for Malaysia to become a nation that is “respected and looked up to by others as a reference centre because it has the 'recipe' (to combat corruption effectively)”, he added. ― Bernama