Making a case against bribers


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 01 Oct 2003

Are we tackling corruption the best possible way? Anti-Corruption Agency director-general Datuk Zulkipli Mat Nor talks to SHAILA KOSHY about the ACA’s attempts to rid Malaysia of this scourge, as the department celebrates its 36th anniversary today

CORRUPTION has thrived in the civil service and private enterprise for many years. 

It would be easy enough to throw all those who accept bribes into our prisons, in our eagerness to stamp it out. After all, there will always be “bribers” who are prepared to turn in the “bribees” if the latter fail to follow through their deal. 

However, as long as there is someone who is willing to offer gratification – whether it is to get to the top of a pile of applications for government approval, or throwing in a holiday abroad for a company director if he persuades his board members to sign up a certain advertising firm as a consultant – the rot is here to stay. 

Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail had said in a recent interview in The Star that he would like to see both parties – those who offer and those who receive the bribe – punished. 

“Right now, we use the giver as a prosecution witness against the civil servant. Maybe we should charge the giver and use the civil servant as a witness,” he had said, adding that disciplinary action against a civil servant could range from a warning to dismissal. 

ACA director-general Datuk Zulkipli Mat Nor was amenable to the suggestion mooted by the AG. 

“We have always been receptive to new approaches that aim to minimise corruption. We do not anticipate any difficulties in implementing the AG’s views to reverse the role of the bribe givers as offenders. 

“There are provisions in the Anti-Corruption Act 1997 that facilitates such matters.” 

He added that once a case was disposed of, the agency could forward recommendations to the respective department heads to take the appropriate disciplinary action against the civil servant who had taken a bribe. 

According to ACA statistics for 2000 to June 2003, the number of arrests decreased from 431 to 156 while the number of convictions also declined from 160 to 73.  

Zulkipli said his agency had mobilised all “resources to place greater emphasis on investigations, fine-tune our investigative techniques and prosecution procedures.” 

Asked what the percentage of civil servants involved in corruption was, Zulkipli disclosed that for the first half of 2003, 69% of the investigation papers opened by the ACA were against public servants for suspected corrupt practice. 

However, he said, ACA investigations did not differentiate between the top civil servants and junior ranking public servants, adding that the figures were merely for statistical purposes. 

“The law imposes the same penalty to those found guilty, as every person is culpable for his own actions.” 

While the public might think that a civil servant who solicited a bribe had committed a greater moral offence than one who had “merely” accepted one, they were equally guilty under the law, said the ACA director-general. 

While there were those who did demand bribes outright, he added – from their investigations and experience – that civil servants did not do so but “there would almost always be a suggestion in a subtle way that a bribe should be forthcoming if things are to be expedited.”  

While the public focus is on corruption in the civil service, they rarely look at private enterprise, where it is more insidious – something as simple as a food hamper can be gratification for a privilege extended or to soften the recipient for a “favour” in the future. 

According to Zulkipli, investigations are “initiated if there are reasonable suspicions that an offence under the Anti-Corruption Act 1997 has been committed.” 

While the number of complaints for those in private enterprise is fewer, he stressed that investigations were handled in the same manner as those in the civil service. 

“The criminal procedure and the evidentiary requirements for investigation purposes for both these sectors are the same.” 

It is very clear that the ACA alone cannot fight corruption. The public, too, has a hand to play. 

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