Is Malaysia really committed to combating corruption?

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim recently said the government aims to put the country in the top 25 nations in the Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in the next 10 years.

While Anwar’s announcement is proactive and progressive, there are several issues that must be addressed if the government is serious in achieving its target.

Corruption is colour-blind and perpetrators come from various socioeconomic backgrounds. To reduce and control corruption in a democratic society requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach. Most importantly, strategies to fight corruption must deal with both givers and receivers.

We must implement and enforce anti-corruption laws, regulations, and codes of conduct without fear or favour. We have to ensure that these laws cover all levels of private and public sectors, including non-profit organisations. We also have to push for severe penalties for those involved in corrupt practices.

Promoting and enhancing transparency and accountability must continue in public administration, budgeting, procurement, and decision-making processes. It is a must to implement mechanisms to monitor and audit government activities, and the same must apply to the private sector and non-governmental organisations.

Citizens and residents must be empowered to actively engage in the democratic process through participation in decision-making, access to information, and providing ample platforms for feedback, and reporting corruption.

It is critical that we foster a culture of ethics and integrity through civic education programmes. It cannot be denied that the culture of ethics and integrity in our nation has declined significantly over the last few decades.

The independence and integrity of the judiciary must be safeguarded. Its autonomy to handle corruption cases must be efficient and fair. Policymakers must also facilitate the establishment of specialised anti-corruption courts. This will expedite corruption cases and efficiently manage the workload.

We must also continue to provide adequate resources, training, and independence to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). Their investigative and enforcement powers must be strengthened, allowing them to prosecute corrupt officials and individuals effectively. Ideally, MACC should report to the Parliament and not to the Prime Minister’s Department, as per the current structure.

MACC must proactively foster cooperation, support investigation and mutual assistance between countries to combat cross-border corruption.

Policymakers must also promote e-governance, online platforms for government services, and transparent digital systems for procurement, tax collection, and public financial management.

We must strengthen and implement mechanisms to trace and monitor the flow of funds, especially in high-risk areas such as political campaigns, public procurement, and asset declarations. We must also strengthen our policy to tighten financial disclosure requirements for politicians and public officials.

There must also be a review of the robust mechanisms to protect and incentivise whistleblowers. Anonymity and safety must be a priority. There must be legal safeguards against retaliation, and financial rewards for credible information must be offered as it will lead to the successful prosecution of corrupt individuals.

We must adopt a culture of ethical leadership by promoting integrity, accountability, and meritocracy.

Public officials must be encouraged to adhere to high ethical standards through training programmes, performance evaluations, and continuous monitoring.

More importantly, we must introduce a course on human social behaviour for schoolchildren from the age of 10 until they complete secondary school. This comprehensive course will address various topics related to behavioural, organisational, and cultural issues. Topics will include ethics and integrity, deviance, crime, policing, law, federal constitution, human sexuality, substance abuse, and related social issues.

Effective combating of corruption requires sustained political will, commitment, and the active involvement of various stakeholders, including government agencies, civil society, organisations, the media, and the public.

The root causes of corruption must be addressed with urgency. While many in society acknowledge the problem, corruption has most unfortunately become a part of our daily lives.

Cronyism, nepotism, and favouritism prevail and are so deeply ingrained in our social norms and values that if not addressed, they will destroy our nation.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.