THE multimillion ringgit corruption scandal in Sabah unearthed by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) revealed an elaborate plot involving senior officials of the Sabah Water Department that had been going on for many years. Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa announced that future government projects worth RM500 million and above, at the state, local authority and federal levels, would have to include the involvement of the auditor general and MACC to avoid abuse and corruption.

However, the minimum project cost of RM500 million is high. It should be lowered to RM100 million. This will make the procurement, tendering and other procedures in major projects more transparent and leakages can be avoided. Civil servants must embrace integrity, while national leaders must set examples. Leaders must practise what they preach and walk the talk so that the country will have a clean public administration. It is essential for the civil service to have a work culture that includes discipline, accountability, responsibility, ethics and integrity so that civil servants will discharge their duties honestly and transparently.

The inculcation of noble and ethical values, accompanied by adherence to the oath of good governance, in civil servants is the most effective way to fight corruption in the civil service. An honest and high integrity person is not likely to commit corrupt practices. Corruption is fuelled by greed and it happens when people without moral conscience misuse their position or authority to exploit the flaws in the system for private gain. However, people should be aware that it is not worth their while to give in to fraud, bribery or corruption because in the long run, the long arm of the law will catch up with them.

A few years ago, it was compulsory for government agencies to establish an integrity unit to ensure that civil servants adopt a work culture that promotes moral and ethics, good governance as well as curb criminal misconduct and breach of code of conduct in the civil service. It is timely for the government to see if such an initiative is effective to ensure corruption-free government agencies. There are far-reaching consequences of corruption on society and the economy. Corruption threatens sustainable economic development, de-stablises society, endangers the rule of law and undermines democracy.

Social implications include poor health services, worsening pollution, higher number of road accidents and workplace incidents and lack of trust in the administration. The economic impact includes decrease in foreign investment due to corruption in the public sector, delay in economic progress due to lengthy processes for project clearance and low-quality products. Nevertheless, the nation’s biggest graft scandal, involving two top Sabah Water Department officials, should not taint the image of the civil service.

The majority of the 1.6 million government employees carry out their duties and provide services with integrity. At the same time, there is a need to tighten internal controls and the monitoring system, especially with regard to the procurement process and tendering of projects to plug loopholes that can be exploited by dishonest employees. Checks and balances must be built into approval and procurement processes so that there will be no room for fraudulent practices.

Besides acting on the AG’s Report, the government should also pay heed to public complaints as the public are those on the receiving end of the services provided by the government. In fact, public complaints are an early warning of failures in government service delivery.

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