The successful head of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team at the Attorney-General’s Office, has taken over as the new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) boss. Hence some of the legal cases on corruption that he may have rejected previously could be revived now, since he wears a different hat.
This queer situation often occurs in the civil service, with some good results. Hopefully more corrupt cases, and especially some really big fish will now be caught – and not be able to get off the hook and swim away?
The new MACC chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad and his tough talk is a welcomed head for the MACC. He has started well, but the public is already asking whether he will end up swell. We all wish that he will deliver and make a real difference to improve our dismal Transparency International ratings and rankings.
Dzulkifli has adopted the right approach as the champion and leader in the national fight against corruption, misappropriation and power abuse. He has perhaps also, for the first time, taken the initiative to ‘prevent corruption in a holistic manner’.
By that he means that the MACC will now use other related legislations, like the Anti-Money-Laundering Act, the Customs Act, the Inland Revenue Board Act and even the Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act – to combat corruption much more effectively.
The MACC will also now “ensure that whatever acquisitions made through illegal means will be frozen, seized and forfeited. This is music to the ears of the MACC staff and all honest civil servants and businessmen and some politicians as well.
Having been the chairperson of the MACC Committee on the Prevention of Corruption, I am convinced that the MACC should focus its anti-corruption efforts not just on civil servants (as the new chief announced), but also especially on the political leaders. They should be the ones to set the good examples, as they are supposed to be the national leaders and role models for Good Governance.
Proposed new MACC initiatives?
The new MACC chief could also take other new initiatives, for instance, to:
1. Reduce the big size of the mother of corruption, which is ‘money politics’.
Money politics is like money itself, the root of all evil. Many politicians who win elections, through the official and unofficial use of money politics, are forced by circumstances to carry on after winning the elections, indulging in greater corruption by rewarding all those who financed their successful elections in the first place.
So please, Dzulkifly, take urgent action, well before the coming general election, due in less than two years, to introduce more effective laws to stamp out the abuse of money politics.
Then you, Sir, and the MACC officers will increase your credibility, public confidence and faith in your sincerity to truly combat corruption.
2. High profile cases should get much higher priority for investigations and prosecution. This is not to say that the MACC will or should ‘push aside small cases’. In fact, the small fish should not get away either. But surely, with the MACC’s limited resources, the focus should be to catch the big fish first, then the small fish will become afraid and avoid corruption.
In any case, the MACC should not, even inadvertently, give the wrong impression that it prefers to catch the small fish, since they are less controversial and often easier to catch than the wily and slippery big fish.
3. The MACC laws should be thoroughly reviewed and revised by the new MACC chief. There must be ‘legislative overhaul’, to ensure that:
i) The MACC is made more independent. Its commissioners should be chosen by a Parliamentary Select Committee and it should be answerable only to Parliament.
ii) The MACC should have its own independent MACC Service Commission, to determine hiring, firing, promotions and sensitive transfers and even rewards and bonuses. Confiscation of property, as proposed by Dzulkifli, will be the right focus of the new chief commissioner. Those found living beyond their means should have to prove that their excessive wealth has not been accumulated greedily and immorally, through illicit and ill-gotten means.
If we had these laws in place before, many Jolly Joes would have been easier to catch and charged and convicted, much to the satisfaction of all those who do an honest day’s job.
While the general public will welcome and support the new MACC chief Dzulkifli Ahmad and his courageous new initiatives to eradicate the curse of corruption, the public will wait, somewhat impatiently, for concrete evidence that Dzulkifli can and will deliver satisfactory results soon.
After all, some considerable success was achieved by the previous dedicated MACC chief Abu Kassim Mohamed and his generally committed team – despite many odds. With stronger backing from all sides, the new chief can hopefully do much better.
Our Transparency International (TI ) rating and rankings are still dismally low. The challenge for the new MACC chief is to improve our TI scores and the public perception, confidence and faith in the MACC. Thus, the MACC will be able to resist the worldwide political phenomenon of ‘state capture’. This will make us all feel far more secure and confident of the future of our beloved country.
Only then will we be able to really appreciate and be truly grateful to the new MACC chief and the MACC staff for their new goals and focus.
Until such time when they achieve better results, we can only hope and pray that the dirty and destructive scourge of corruption does not poison our whole body politic and undermine the unity of our Malaysian society.
All these new MACC initiatives and proposals to eradicate the decay of corruption are essential to safeguard our country from sliding down towards becoming a failing state.
But, we all no doubt also believe that, with much stronger and more honest leadership – all Malaysians will loyally rally around our national flag – to ensure that Malaysia recovers its Merdeka Glory and progresses well.
RAMON NAVARATNAM is chairperson of Asli/Centre of Public Policy Studies.