KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 ― The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) suspects that a passport fee scam that cost the Immigration Department more than RM1 million in Selangor alone was only small part of much larger corruption in the agency.
MACC deputy commissioner for operations Datuk Azam Baki reportedly said the fraud allegedly perpetrated by four Selangor Immigration officers arrested on Monday could also be happening at Immigration offices in other states.
“I cannot reveal too much details, but from the information we gathered, we have reason to suspect that this activity could be happening at most Immigration offices nationwide. We need to investigate first,” he was quoted saying by local daily New Straits Times (NST).
Azam was commenting on the MACC's arrest of the four Immigration officers, who were believed to have issued valid receipts to applicants for the RM200 payment for each passport application, before submitting false information in the Immigration Department's system that the applicants were disabled.
By making the false claims without the passport applicants' knowledge, the officers were then allegedly able to pocket RM200 for each applicant as the fee is waived for the disabled.
“Initial investigations revealed that the suspects have been doing this since 2014. The department is estimated to have lost more than RM1 million in Selangor alone.
“The officers had abused the passport approval system. This cannot be taken lightly because besides incurring financial loss for the country, it also violates the rights of OKU (the disabled) and would jeopardise the group's benefits provided by the government,” he was quoted saying.
According to the NST, the Shah Alam magistrate's court yesterday granted a six-day remand order on the four officers for the MACC's investigation into the case that involves over 100 passport applications.
Immigration Department director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said the department's special team from the headquarters had conducted a nationwide internal audit that led to the discovery of over 100 payment reports with false information.
“Following the audit and intelligence gathering, we discovered the falsifying of information in international passport applications, and shared it with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
“The department will not compromise with officers who commit a breach of integrity. Those found to have done so will be taken to court by authorities like MACC, while at the department level, we will take stern action against them, including dismissal, if found guilty,” he was quoted as saying by NST when commenting on the four nabbed.
Mustafar said the Immigration Department is using a three-pronged approach to prevent misconduct: investigation and review, prevention by looking for procedural loopholes, and taking action by enforcing the law.
Mustafar reportedly said 32 officers were fired last month for disciplinary issues including corruption and noted that there are now lesser corrupt personnel in the Immigration Department after he took over last year.
He said the government has agreed to the proposal to restructure the Immigration Department where more top officials will be promoted, while those who either offered or accepted bribes would face prosecution in court.
“It is hard for us to achieve zero corruption. But, with the restructuring, including better promotion and increment opportunities for officers, I hope everyone can develop zero tolerance towards corruption,” he said.
The NST said the department has 14,420 officers.