MACC deserves to be commended for intensifying the battle against corruption. Almost every day there is some news item or other about the arrest of a high level civil servant or the court appearance of a senior officer with an enforcement agency. The impression created is that MACC is serious and earnest about weeding out corruption.
The Malaysian public should support its mission. This can be done in many ways. The public could campaign for instance to make MACC truly independent. What this means is that the MACC commissioners, especially its top brass, should be selected and appointed by Parliament. They should not hold office at the pleasure of the executive. Their independence should be protected through the constitution.
There should also be a law that prohibits the closest kith and kin of a serving minister or deputy minister, at the federal level, or a menteri besar or executive councillor, at the state level, from bidding for any government related contract or project. All legislators and their immediate family members should also be required to declare their assets and liabilities to the public through MACC.
This is linked indirectly to the question of electoral financing. In the 2012 Parliamentary Select Committee’s Electoral Reform Report which has been adopted by the Malaysian Parliament, it was suggested that the possibility of establishing a publicly administered common fund for financing general and by-elections be explored. All candidates and parties would be able to draw upon this fund based upon certain rules. The fund itself would be supported by both the public and private sectors. The idea is to eliminate donor-donee relationships emerging through the electoral process which can lead to abuse.
Independent commentators and civil society groups have also proposed that to the extent it is possible government procurements should be made without the intervening role of a “middle-man” or “agent.” It not only increases the cost of transactions but often encourages unsavoury practices. At the same time, the principle and practice of open tenders that enhances transparency and accountability should be strengthened further.
These are proposals that have been put forward by a number of us for a very long time. If these institutional reforms have not been given the emphasis they deserve, it is largely because power-holders in our society are reluctant to move in that direction. Their fear is that if these reforms are adopted and implemented they may undermine elite interests. It is because the preservation and perpetuation of such interests takes precedence over adherence to honesty and integrity that in many societies corruption continues to taint and tarnish public life.
We have witnessed this in our own society for decades. The 1MDB scandal is the most recent and the most outrageous example of how elite interests have subverted honesty and integrity. In spite of all the attempts to conceal and camouflage what are obvious acts of kleptocracy, a segment of the Malaysian public knows from investigations conducted elsewhere and court proceedings and convictions in other jurisdictions that some individuals have sold their soul for silver.
If MACC’s drive against corruption is to mean anything at all it must re-open the 1MDB case. It must examine the evidence that has surfaced outside our shores. It must, where appropriate, recommend to the attorney-general that he initiates prosecution.
And our judiciary as the custodian of justice should ensure that justice is done.
Only if there is honest action on 1MDB will the people believe that those who wield power and authority in Malaysian society are sincere about eliminating corruption. Only then will trust between the elites and a significant segment of the people be restored.
When trust is restored, governance will be more effective and ethical.
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