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New anti-graft plan after slew of scandals

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PUTRAJAYA (Jan 30): Amid the slew of financial scandals seen since the change in regime last year, such as the ones involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd, Lembaga Tabung Haji and the Federal Land Development Authority, the Pakatan Harapan government yesterday launched a five-year action plan to stem similar misdeeds in the future.

During his opening speech, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pointed to the previous National Integrity Plan introduced in 2004, aimed at inculcating a culture of integrity among the people, which he said did not really help in curbing corruption.

“In fact, the problem became worse between the time the plan was introduced and a few years ago when the country was perceived as a kleptocracy, a very shameful label, which means that the government was being led by the corrupt and thieves that exploited the country and its people’s resources for personal gain,” said Dr Mahathir.

“While the new government has taken action to bring the corrupt to justice, subsequent measures need to be taken to ensure the widespread culture of bribery and corruption does not continue. This is the context in which the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) has been created,” he said.

In formulating the plan, the government assessed various data, including reviews by the United Nations Convention against Corruption, global anti-corruption models, corruption perception surveys, data from various government agencies, input from stakeholders and the public and recommendations from other entities such as Asean Development Bank and Transparency International Malaysia.

The NACP outlines 115 initiatives to be implemented by 2023, as the government looks to root out corruption over the next five years.

The plan is largely focused on the public sector, in line with the findings from surveys by Transparency International and the Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC), which found that about half of Malaysian respondents perceive lawmakers, government officials, local councillors, tax collectors and police officers as the most involved in corruption.

Meanwhile, 23% of respondents said they had bribed public officials in public schools, hospitals, utilities services, the police force and courts over the course of a year, while the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission highlighted that 63.3% of corruption complaints involve the public sector.

“It can be said that the civil service is a segment that is exposed to bribery, especially those that are involved in the delivery of public service and procurement. A study found that civil servants have a lack of understanding of bribery.

“We hope that the NACP can improve the image and quality of public service as well as the perception of the people towards the civil service,” said Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Bakar.

 

Key initiatives to be implemented

Out of the 115 initiatives, the plan highlighted 22 priority initiatives aimed at addressing six key areas where corruption is rampant, namely in political governance, public-sector administration, public procurement, legal and judicial, law enforcement and corporate governance.

Under political governance, the government intends to introduce new legislation on governing political funding which will include an offence on lobbying as well as to implement a proper asset declaration system for members of the administration and members of parliament.

Other initiatives include a better policy on acceptance of gifts and the prohibition of the issuance of supporting letters by members of the administration or any highly influential persons for any projects or applications.

To address issues in public-sector administration, the government’s plans include the strengthening of the mechanism in enforcing mandatory job rotation for public servants holding sensitive posts and the management of the involvement of senior government officials as directors and chief executive officers of all state-owned enterprises and statutory bodies.

A transparent guideline on the appointment of special officers, political, private and media secretaries for ministers and deputy ministers will also be implemented.

In terms of procurement, the NACP seeks to ensure that all departments and regulators execute projects based on the advice and recommendation of technical departments such as the Public Works Department and to create accountability and transparency in defining the powers of a minister in legal provisions.

For the legal and judicial system, the government wants to promote a clear separation of powers and impartiality, such as the separation of the powers of the attorney-general and the public prosecutor, as well as to prioritise for corruption cases to be handled by judges and public prosecutors who are experienced in such cases.

In terms of law enforcement, the key initiatives include the integration of relevant agencies to improve border control and the transformation of the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission into the Independent Police Complaints and Misconducts Commission to address integrity issues among the members of the Royal Malaysia Police.

All of these initiatives are expected to be implemented within one to five years’ time with the GIACC acting as the secretariat, evaluating the yearly performance and effectiveness of the initiatives.

 

The NACP’s 22 key initiatives

Political governance

1.    New legislation on governing political funding

2.    A proper asset declaration system for members of the administration and parliament

3.    Policy improvement on acceptance of gifts, entertainment and payment by members of the administration

4.    Prohibition of supporting letter issuances for projects or applications

5.    Introduction of a prime minister’s directive in governing demarcation of power between ministers and secretaries-general

6.    Policy on appointing politicians as chairpersons or members as directors of statutory bodies, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and government established companies limited by guarantee (CLBGs) based strictly on academic and professional qualifications

    

Public sector administration

7.    Strengthening the mechanism to enforce mandatory job rotation for public servants holding sensitive posts

8.    Managing the involvement and appointment of senior government officials as directors and CEOs in all SOEs and statutory bodies

9.    Strengthening the process of integrity vetting for public officials holding positions with high risk or responsibility

10.    Introduction of a guideline on appointment of special officers and political, private and media secretaries for ministers and deputy ministers

11.    Governing the power of any highly influential person on local authority performance and decision-making

    

Public procurement

12.    Ensuring all client departments and regulators execute projects based on the recommendation of technical departments

13.    Creating accountability and transparency in defining the power of ministers as stipulated in legal provisions, especially in procurement and the financial system

14.    Introduction of standard clauses in undertakings of project procurement to protect the government’s interest in projects and contracts

 

Legal and judicial

15.    Promoting clear separation of powers and impartiality

16.    Prioritisation for corruption cases to be handled by judges and public prosecutors who are trained or experienced in such cases

    

Law enforcement

17.    Integration of relevant agencies for better border control

18.    Improving the existing foreign workers’ centralised management system

19.    Transforming the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) into the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to address misconducts among members of the Royal Malaysia Police

20.    Introduction of a new provision in the MACC Act for offences against any commercial organisation or person selling off a government project or tender to another party for monetary gains without undertaking the project or tender

    

Corporate governance

21.    Introduction of the integrity vetting requirement as a selection criterion of top management positions in statutory bodies, SOEs and CLBGs

22.    Imposition of a conditional approach on the purpose and utilisation of funds provided by the government to all statutory bodies, SOEs and CLBGs

Source: National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Jan 30, 2019.

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