Other agencies must follow MACC’s plan to make info accessible, says criminologist

A top criminologist in Malaysia has lauded the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for wanting to inform the public of the progress of its investigations and charges.

Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy described the intention as a “move in the right direction”, adding that it should be emulated by other enforcement and government agencies in the country.

“This is indeed a proactive and progressive move that should not be adopted by just the MACC alone, but by other agencies, too,” said Sundramoorthy.

“I must warn that such a system must be user-friendly. If it’s about calling someone in the commission to find out (about the progress of investigations or reports), then, it will not work.

“The information should be readily available on a website or mobile application, and details of the progress of cases can be monitored with just a click or two.

“There should be zero bureaucracy. No writing in and all that stuff. The process shouldn’t frustrate the public.”

MACC Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki was quoted by national news agency Bernama yesterday as saying that the move was to change the public’s perception that MACC was not going after the ‘big sharks’.

The call comes as the International Day for Universal Access to Information is celebrated today.

According to the United Nations, universal access to information is a cornerstone of healthy and inclusive knowledge societies. Universal access to information means that everyone has the right to seek, receive, and impart information, and that such a right plays an integral part in the right to freedom of expression.

Sundramoorthy added that enforcement agencies should set clear and realistic deadlines so that those involved in a particular case, and the public, are not left in the dark.

“After a number of days, we should already know the results of the preliminary investigation. And then, we should be getting the full report in the following few days, or weeks. There must be a schedule and the investigating officers must keep to that schedule.

“If the agency is not going to charge an individual, just say so and provide the reasons. The public needs to know.”

He added the status of every case must be updated and there should also be a channel to allow the public to air their grouses if the schedule is not met.

“At the same time, we must be fair to all parties … to the investigating agencies, the complainants, and members of the public. We need to set realistic schedules.”

He added that access to information is crucial in creating an educated society, and called on enforcement agencies to regularly disclose data and statistics related to crime in the country.

“Crime data should be easily and readily accessible. The information should be available in real-time. But most of the time, we won’t know what the numbers are until the relevant agency tells us. That shouldn’t be the case,” he added.

“I remember the police had a crime index that was posted on its website before, but it was removed. I was told that the data was being misused. Look, data can be misused and abused, but we cannot live in fear.

“I’ve said this many times before, the more data we provide, the more it will help the public know what’s right, and what to do. Above all, important data shouldn’t be politicised,” he added.