KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki has disputed the widely held belief that increasing civil servant salaries would substantially decrease corruption.

With nearly four decades of experience in anti-corruption efforts, Azam Baki dismissed the idea that low wages or poverty are the primary drivers of government corruption.

“If people think that corruption is because of the lower salaries, my recommendation to the government is, be careful on that, don’t keep on increasing the wages for nothing.

“You think that will reduce corruption (but) it is about other things. It is about greed, opportunities, the system and procedures of the governance issues and then people use that opportunity for their benefit,” he said in an interview with New Straits Times.

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He said MACC continually enhances its procedures and adopts best governance practices by collaborating with other enforcement bodies, such as the police’s Integrity and Standards Compliance Department, to combat corruption.

He said the division specifically addressed misconduct within public offices, particularly focusing on the Customs Department as a key area of concern.

“I intend to propose to the Director-General of Customs (Datuk Anis Rizana Mohd Zainudin) to consider utilising our expertise. We have successfully executed numerous undercover projects that could be beneficial in enhancing their methods for detecting illicit activities,” he was quoted as saying.

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Azam Baki said MACC has prevented over RM25 billion from being lost to corruption.

He said that this amount was saved from RM87 billion worth of projects through recovering stolen assets and seizing property from corrupt individuals, including about 70 per cent of 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) stolen assets, totalling approximately RM29 billion.

“I would like to stress that we are not revenue collectors but enforcement agencies that look into the betterment of the country and monitor the issue of corruption and abuse of power.

“For example, in the case of smuggling, we will charge all the people involved, but we will also repatriate the stolen assets.

“I want to bring back the money for all of you, not for me,” he was quoted as saying.

He said that to enhance their effectiveness, MACC works together with relevant authorities such as the Inland Revenue Board, the Companies Commission of Malaysia, and Bank Negara Malaysia by sharing information and expertise.