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Fighting graft: MACC moving into ‘offensive mode’

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has moved into “offensive mode” in its fight against graft, especially among civil servants.

Not satisfied with waiting for reports of alleged corruption to cross its path, the commission has now begun an initiative to seek better insight into the ways corrupt officials go about their dirty business.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said the commission was working things out with the Public Service Department to have access to asset declarations made by civil servants.

Under Malaysia’s present criminal laws, the authorities cannot initiate any investigation without a “First Information Report” (FIR) that a suspected crime has taken place.

What this means is that unless someone lodges a report with the MACC, for instance, that a crime of corruption has taken place, the commission cannot begin an investigation.

“Technically, we cannot investigate anyone solely based on suspicions or without any information or complaint.

If a civil servant is living beyond his means, it only indicates that he or she may have committed an offence.

“We need other information to show that he or she had indeed done it. Only then can MACC investigate and compel the person to make an asset declaration,” Azam told the New Sunday Times.

What MACC wants to do, however, is to have the information at hand to allow it to initiate investigations.

Azam said having access to the data would augur well for MACC’s initiative in combating graft.

“We are working on it with the Public Service Department, which is the custodian of the asset declaration data. If we have access to this database, we can carry out our own intelligence and monitor certain people, including those holding critical positions in the government.”

Azam said the onus was on heads of department in the civil service to monitor their staff and the assets they owned.

He said each department should have its own unit to monitor the staff, and should they find their staff to be living beyond their means, then they should lodge reports with MACC, which would then be able to look into the matter.

“There are more than 1.6 million government officers. It is ridiculous to think that MACC could monitor all of them.

We do not have enough resources to do so,” he said. The commission’s move to be more proactive by asking to be allowed access to the asset declaration forms received the support of Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, a long-time anti-graft champion.

He said the government should strengthen and review procedures in place to combat corruption. This, he said, included the asset declaration system.

“This would send a strong message to the people that they would sooner or later be caught if they were involved in graft,” he said.

Ramon suggested other measures, including encouraging the public to lodge complaints on graft.

He said the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services had said before that it could play a vital role in helping the government and MACC to reduce corruption by encouraging more civil servants to become whistle-blowers.

“(However) there is a fear of reporting cases of corruption and also informing the MACC of attempts to bribe or to seek bribes as people do not have confidence in the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010.

“People think that information will leak and they will end up penalised. They also feel that they will lose out in business if they report attempts of corruption.”

Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akhbar Satar said secretaries-general of ministries and heads of department should be made responsible for monitoring their subordinates.

“This is important… to look for red flags. They should monitor if any of the officers are too close to the clients, or any refusal to be transferred or (even) anyone declining promotion.”

The New Straits Times had, on Thursday, reported that 80 per cent of corruption cases built against civil servants involved soliciting from clients.

MACC was quoted as saying that government agencies should look into plugging loopholes in the system of governance.-nst

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