The government must have the political will to reform the parliamentary and state legislature systems and separate them from the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department, WH Cheng writes.
On 1 October, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) celebrated its 53rd anniversary with a remark from chief commissioner Azam Baki that corruption within the government has been getting rampant despite all its efforts to combat corrupt practices nationwide.
Yes, MACC has gone all out in its efforts to get rid of this scourge from the public sector ever since, with activities such as education, training, awareness and all sorts of other programmes to educate and make civil servants aware of the circumstances, penalties, fines and blacklisting.
However, none of these efforts seems to have be effective despite the MACC going all out. Instead, more and more civil servants are indulging in corrupt practices as a way of earning some lucrative income to finance their luxurious lifestyles.
First of all, why do these civil servants continue their corrupt practices. Worst of all, even many newly recruited civil servants have learned how to become corrupt instead of enhancing their productivity? Are all these due to culture, a very normal kind of practice these civil servants have been practicing for decades, from generation to generation, creating and enhancing connections?
Despite MACC going nationwide to educate and raise awareness among these civil servants on the dangers and of how bad it is being a corrupt official, corruption remains rampant in the government sector till today, and it is becoming worse as the years goes by.
Many corrupt government officials have been investigated, caught, arrested, charged in court, sentenced to imprisonment for many years. Yet, more and more government officials are indulging in corrupt practices, and no one in the MACC knows exactly why this is happening despite all its efforts. These MACC officials and their team seem to be frustrated.
One notable senior politician from the previous ruling party who is now attach to the current ruling coalition today, once said: “We hired you to combat corruption, arrest these guys and put them in jail. That is why you are here today and do not complain or show your frustration. Just do your job and that’s it!”
From this comment uttered by the senior politician, what can you conclude from the way he told off the then-MACC official?
It means in combating corruption, strong political will is required. It must start from the top, those who are sitting up there – the prime minister, the cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, chief ministers, menteris besar, state executive councillors, state legislative assembly members, city mayors and presidents of municipal and district councils, the government chief secretary, secretary-generals of ministry, director generals, divisional heads, department heads – right down to the bottom.
The stumbling block to the efforts to combat corruption today lies with the Prime Minister’s Department, which has for decades fully controlled the many kinds of agencies as well as Parliament. Even the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat or the House of Representatives and the President of Dewan Negara (Senate) both report to the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (in charge of law and parliamentary affairs).
So the country’s highest law-making institution is not even an independent body itself to effectively play its role in providing checks and balances on the current government in its regular proceedings, transactions, policy implementation, projects, tenders, procurements and budgetary expenditure.
And why is Parliament still under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department? If this continues, then the Dewan Rakyat Speaker and the Dewan Negara President will forever have no freedom to exercise their powers and roles to ensure MPs and senators carry out checks on the government in the most effective way as it was supposed to be.
Just look at all those parliamentary special select committees which were appointed by the previous Speaker to oversee the portfolios of various ministries:
- Consideration Special Select Committee
- Budget Special Select Committee
- Defence and Home Affairs Special Select Committee
- Gender Equality and Family Development Special Select Committee
- States and Federal Relations Special Select Committee
- Major Public Appointments Special Select Committee
- Elections Special Select Committee
- Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs Special Select Committee
- International Relations and Trades Special Select Committee
- Science, Innovation And Environment Special Select Committee
- and of course the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
So, why are all these parliamentary select committees not living up to their oversight roles and responsibilities? It is because the Speaker needs to authorise these select committees and empower them to carry out their checks-and- balances role. In doing so, the Speaker needs to obtain the permission or approval from the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department before he can issue the authorisation.
This shows that Parliament itself is not the independent institution it is supposed to be because its administration and management falls right under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department.
Parliament was once an independent institution governed under the Parliamentary Services Act 1963, but this Act was abolished in 1992, and control of the institution then fell under the Prime Minister’s Department.
The MACC itself is also under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department with the appointment of the MACC chief commissioner being determined by the prime minister himself – though, in name, the appointment is ceremoniously made by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong after the PM approves the candidate first. So, is the MACC really independent?
So what can be done to stop the rampant corruption in the government? Nothing – unless there is a clear political will by the sitting government to change and reform the parliamentary and state legislature systems and separate them from the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department and the various menteris besar/chief ministers’ departments of the various states. (The state legislative assemblies are also currently controlled by the respective menteris besar/chief minsters’ departments.)
If such reforms are carried out from federal to state levels, all legislative bodies would be independent of the executive. Only then would these legislatures (parliament and state legislative assemblies) be able to provide checks and balances on to the federal and state governments. This is a fact.
Therefore, if the government of the day is not interested at all in implementing these reforms and to make the legislatures independent from the executive control, then corruption in government would become even more rampant.
As for the MACC chief commissioner and his senior officials, if you all want to complain and demonstrate your frustration over the rampant (and increased) corruption in this country, express it first to all those top politicians up there, instead of voicing it out to the press or the public. The people will just retort that you are powerless and ineffective.
Happy 53rd anniversary, MACC!