THE idea of every government-linked company (GLC) having an “integrity and governance unit” is certainly laudable.
State-owned enterprises are a big part of the business landscape in Malaysia and they often support the implementation of government policies. How these GLCs are run is a matter of national importance.
As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak pointed out yesterday, the business community values the Government’s commitment to necessary reforms and to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, transparency, accountability and good regulation.
In his keynote address at the Invest Malaysia conference, he said the businessmen’s need for such certainty had prompted the Government to agree in principle to the setting up of integrity and governance units at all GLCs, including state and ministry-owned business entities.
These units will come under the supervision of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). The objective, Najib said, was “precisely to strengthen the confidence all can, should and do have in Malaysia”.
While we wait for more details about this move, it is useful to consider the experience of government agencies with their own integrity units.
In July 2013, the Public Service Department issued a circular directing all agencies at Federal and state levels to establish integrity units.
According to the circular, the aim was to ensure that civil servants work in an environment underpinned by morality, ethics and patriotism.
This initiative was also meant to curb indiscipline and criminal misconduct in the public sector.
The department said these units would fulfil their role by promoting good governance, strengthening integrity, dealing with complaints of wrongdoings, monitoring compliance with the law and functioning as secretariats of the Public Service Disciplinary Board.
The MACC also has a key role here because a government agency’s integrity unit must be headed by a Certified Integrity Officer who has been trained by the commission.
In fact, the integrity units are part of the MACC’s strategy for preventing corruption.
As of December 2015, almost 900 agencies had formed integrity units. Now that four years have gone by since the circular came out, it is reasonable to believe that the government integrity units and their Certified Integrity Officers have accumulated a wealth of data, case studies and lessons.
The MACC’s annual reports do cover the activities of these integrity units, but perhaps it is time for a special comprehensive review of the effectiveness and impact of these units.
The findings and recommendations ought to be made public so that more people can benefit from the knowledge. This would be timely so that when the GLCs start setting up integrity units, all stakeholders will have a clear idea of what to expect.