Where the eradication of corruption, improvement of the civil service and promotion of effectiveness and accountability in both the public and private sectors are concerned, it has been a heady 100 days. And the people are impressed, writes WANI MUTHIAH.
JUST four days after taking office as the fifth Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pledged to carry out his duties with integrity, trustworthiness, efficiency and fairness.
He also singled out eradicating graft as one of the top priorities in his agenda for the nation.
Abdullah’s earliest moves included announcing that Malaysia would be signing the UN Convention Against Corruption to indicate the country’s commitment to the international standards of integrity and good governance.
The government also approved an allocation of RM17mil recently to set up an anti-corruption academy to function as the regional hub for study and research on all aspects of graft as well as to train anti-corruption officers.
Abdullah also expressed his intent in wanting to make the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) stronger and was quoted as saying that “the ACA had to build capacity”, as when capacity is insufficient “not much work could be done effectively”.
The Government, under Abdullah’s stewardship, initiated the setting-up of the National Institute for Public Ethics to coordinate and undertake research aimed at propagating good governance, accountability, transparency and efficiency in the public service.
This move was indeed timely as Malaysia ranked a worrisome 33rd out of 102 countries in the Corruption Perception Index compiled by Transparency International.
In addition to the National Institute for Public Ethics, Abdullah also suggested that a National Integrity Plan be formulated to promote efficacy, effectiveness and accountability in both public and private sectors.
At the same time, Abdullah instructed his Cabinet to look into cutting red tape and improving front-line counters in order to reduce corruption in the civil service.
He also directed that all district offices and local councils be re-engineered to eradicate cumbersome bureaucratic procedures.
His decision to award most government procurement and contract through open tenders to propagate transparency, reduce the cost of conducting business and to prevent corruption was also a crucial move to strengthen public confidence.
But Abdullah’s most striking effort is certainly the setting-up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to review the police force in totality to facilitate the rehabilitation of its image as well as the restoration of public confidence in it. Transparency International Malaysia president Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim:
“I think the Prime Minister has lived up to his reputation as someone who is prepared to do what he promised to do.
“What he has done so far is reflective of his commitment towards propagating transparency and integrity in the pursuance of a more open, transparent and accountable society.
“He is doing what we have been pushing for in the past six years by initiating the National Integrity Plan, which is a Transparency International (TI) tool of fighting corruption.
“The establishment of the National Institute of Public Ethics is also an idea, which came from TI.
“Setting up a Royal Commission to inquire into the police force is a brave thing to do as no other prime minister has tried it.
“However, the initiative is not about pointing fingers at the police force but to help it reinvent itself in order to regain public trust and confidence.
“He has also put in place a mechanism for checks and balances as well as a national integrity system, which will improve the quality of public service and the various national institutions such as the judiciary and parliament, among others.
“With this we should be able to strengthen all these institutions – which is something Malaysia has neglected to do all these years.
“If I were asked to write a report on the Prime Minister’s 100 days in office, I would state excellent in every respect.”
Ex-Policemen’s Association president Senator Datuk Mansor H.M. Jaafar:
“The Prime Minister has done a good job in his first 100 days in office and whatever he has delivered so far is up to expectation.
“And this can indeed strengthen the people’s confidence in the government of the day.
“However, it’s not going to be easy for him, as the situation will become more complex as people are becoming more critical. I hope he has the strength and courage to keep up with the good work.
“Malaysians must support and work collectively with him to create a better Malaysia.
“We know that it is not easy to completely wipe out graft but we hope that he is successful in reducing opportunities for corrupt practices in the country.
“As for the Royal Commission to review the police force, we hope that it is regarded positively with no one assuming that the move was made because the police force is in terrible shape.
“Hopefully, the Prime Minister also appoints retired policemen from the lower ranks into the commission as these were the people on the ground and they would know best about the relevant issues.
“Although his demeanour appears to be mild, deep down he is a tough man and means business.”
Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) director-general Datuk Zulkipli Mat Nor:
“The Prime Minister’s stance on graft is very good for the ACA as well as for the country as it will enhance integrity. The launch of the National Institute for Public Ethics and the National Integrity Plan also augurs well for the ACA.
“The ACA also welcomes his stand on the eradication of corruption among public servants at all levels, the implementation of the open tender system as well as the call for prompt payment by all government agencies.
“This is because the ACA’s research indicates that delayed payment and non-transparent tender systems were also the catalysts for corruption taking place.
“We are grateful to the Prime Minister for his efforts in making the ACA stronger.”
Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye:
“The Prime Minister’s political will to fight corruption in the country must be given the fullest support by his Cabinet colleagues, politicians, the civil service, the private sector and the entire community so that it can be translated into meaningful and effective action.
“Malaysians will fully agree with the Prime Minister when he stated that we needed to have a clean image, which is free from corruption so that the public, businessmen and foreign investors will have a positive perception of our efforts to fight corruption.
“Malaysians must also give their fullest support to the Prime Minister to ensure that bribery will not become institutionalised, by which time its eradication will involve more than personal valour.”
Bar Council president Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari:“If the government is open, transparent and accountable to the people, it would be able to eradicate corruption. “The Prime Minister is genuinely interested in ensuring that the police force is able to reinvent itself by calling for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to review it.“The setting up of the National Institute for Public Ethics is a good move by the government in taking a regional lead in battling graft.”