The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center), in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), recently marked this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December by drawing public attention to the use of technology to fight widespread corruption in the country.
Themed “Using Technology to Turn the Tide Against Corruption” and attended by close to 100 participants (virtually and on-site), the event aimed to shed light on rising corruption across economies, especially in Malaysia, amid the emergency situation wrought by the Covid pandemic and how to use technology to counter the onslaught of corruption, an enduring problem that the country faces.
The content of the talks included exploring new anti-corruption methods, tools and measures that could be used to improve the processes involved in procurement services to minimise leakages and malpractices.
In her welcome note, Cynthia Gabriel, C4 Center founding director, said: “Today’s event is organised in conjunction with the International Anti-Corruption Day which is celebrated tomorrow, on the 9th of December, but this day needs to be given far more prominence in Malaysia than it receives.
“We are also here today on a very positive note, feeling energised after the Court of Appeal’s decision and very much in context with what we are talking about,” said Cynthia, in reference to the upholding of former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s conviction and sentence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case by the court that morning.
She attributed the success of corruption investigations to the due diligence of investigative journalists, the US Department of Justice and several other law enforcement institutions around the world that uncovered multi-layered, multi-dimensional and complex corruption cases, particularly those concerning Malaysia.
“It was technology and tools that were actually utilised in a very intricate way that helped follow the money trail and assisted our local investigators including the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) to conduct (investigations into) such massive corruption cases,” she said.
Cynthia said the court had given the country a very strong message and the decision boded well to coincide with the International Anti-Corruption Day.
“So today, following the interesting court decision, our spirits have been boosted to believe that kleptocrats – those corrupt offenders involved in serious corruption – really have no place in our society,” she emphasised.
Professor Edmund Terence Gomez, chairman of the C4 Center boad, said: “We must understand the system that has been put in place by the people in government and in business which allows them to perpetuate corruption in a covert manner, that’s so difficult to detect.
“It is hard for NGOs to detect how this money flows when it has gone transnational. We cannot do this alone because money is flowing in and out of the country through more sophisticated fintech financial-typed technology,” Gomez explained, adding that stakeholders should pull together resources to dismantle the mechanisms that lead to corruption.
Speakers representing the UNODC (Francesco Checchi, anti-corruption adviser), the Open Contracting Partnership (Bernadine Fernz, head of infrastructure), the Department of Standards Malaysia (Abdul Fattah Yatim, chairman of the Malaysia’s standards committee on blockchain and distributed ledger technologies); and Emir Research (Dr Rais Hussin Mohammed Ariff) covered topics on the use of technology to combat corruption. These included the role of data analytics for corruption and fraud prevention in Southeast Asia, open contracting infrastructure, blockchain technology and integrity-tech in the digital economy to fight corruption.
Participants attending the event comprised skilled individuals from the procurement sector, including integrity and compliance professionals, financial and investment professionals, regulatory enforcement officers, as well as investigative journalists and key business and management decision-makers. They could expect to apply their renewed understanding towards the anti-corruption framework to further their work in their respective fields for their organisations.
In the recent auditor general’s report on the federal government’s financial statements and the 2020 federal ministries and departments compliance audit, various problems surrounding federal ministries and departments with financial management’s non-compliance issues had been identified.
The report, tabled on 28 October in Parliament, found irregular payments, loss of public funds and wastage involving these ministries and departments amounting to RM620m last year. Inevitably, this implied corruption in its various forms, within various stages of the procurement processes, thus urgently requiring the use of technology to arrest and resolve the ongoing issue.
To curb leakages and wastage stemming from the procurement sector, the C4 Center had called on the government to expedite the setting up of an independent ombudsman’s office and to include a misconduct in public office clause as a new provision under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009.
Corruption has largely been acknowledged as the primary enabler of transnational crimes, and the first ever UN General Assembly special session on corruption in June this year affirmed the urgent need to fight this scourge using technology to achieve this end. – C4 Center