We propose once again that the
Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) is only responsible to Parliament as a
credible step to make it strong
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw
(Kuala Lumpur, Thursday): After the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that Malaysia would sign the United Nations’ Anti-Corruption Convention later this month in Mexico and that it would allocate RM17 million to establish an academy to train anti-corruption officers. These exude the fresh air that people have been yearning. We hope that this fresh air will go on for years.
The scourge of corruption exists in all societies. It is difficult to get witnesses and evidence to prove that any person is corrupt.
When the former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad assumed his office in 1981, he propounded a clean, effective and trustworthy Government. But, corruption has become rampant. It may not be as bad as some countries such as Indonesia. Nevertheless, it worries us. We wonder if the nation is going down the slippery slope to bankruptcy like Argentina.
Opening the Fourth Regional Anti-Corruption Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Kuala Lumpur on 3 December, 2003, he said that if the ACA delayed its investigation, if the agency was slow, the media would do the prosecuting.
“…..Corruption is a serious crime and we want to show that justice is upheld.
“The way we are doing it at the moment is acceptable. We will decide what to do with the ACA in the future…..but for the moment my intention is to make it strong.’ He added.
The media should cooperate by backing up their reportage of corruption with facts, figures and witnesses. Can they avoid hearsays, innuendoes and lies? On the other hand, the Government must be more transparent and accountable. If cases such as Perwaja Steel saga last for years, what does the Government want the media and the people to think?
How do we make ACA strong? If the PM can entrust it with full authority, letting it enforce the Anti-Corruption Act to the full, then it is the beginning. We would need truly clean, efficient and trustworthy officers.
Once ACA is manned by more committed officers, we must also make it responsible only to Parliament. If it is still under the Prime Minister’s Department, people are suspicious. Can ministers and senior officials make their assets public?
Those who give and those who receive bribes are equally wrong. Who is to blame? It is like chicken and egg. Which comes first?
Take the Road Transport Department (commonly known as JPJ or RIMV). The general perception is that it is corrupt from top to bottom. Here, we exclude those truly dedicated personnel. Can the Anti-Corruption Academy train better officers?
Just like tackling terrorism, we have to get to the bottom of things—the root causes. One important cause is money politics that is connected with political patronage. How do we ensure that all contestants for the divisional, state and national posts of the ruling coalition such as Umno do not use money to buy them?
The Anti-Corruption Academy, the National Institute for Public Ethics, the National Integrity Plan and the ratification of the United Nations’ Anti-Corruption Convention provide the forms. But, we need the substances that include sustained and effective enforcement. A tangible step is making ACA independent.
* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong