Azam Baki: MACC to focus on fighting economic crime, plugging leaks in public funds

PUTRAJAYA (Bernama): The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will focus on fighting economic crime and helping the government to reduce leakages of public funds over the next three years.

In an exclusive interview with Bernama commemorating the 53rd anniversary of its establishment, MACC chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki (pic) said that widespread corruption can hike up the government’s procurement costs.

He added that this will also affect the government's delivery system and devastate the nation’s economy.

"For now our focus is on corruption issues related to economic crime but this doesn’t mean we will not prioritise other types of corruption cases, ” he said.

Azam said that most of the corruption cases handled the MACC from 2015 to now involved leakages from government procurement.

He then said that there were cases of government officers misappropriating funds in connection with government procurement that led to millions of ringgit in losses.

"More improvements have to be made. Previously, the MACC lacked the expertise but now we have the ability to make a more accurate analysis and evaluation of any case, ” he explained.

On the zero corruption vision, Azam admitted that it is not something that is easy to attain, adding that to date no nation in the world can lay claim to having zero corruption.

"If we want to talk about zero corruption, then we’ve to take a look at the front-liners who are the enforcement personnel in this case. If they are ‘clean’, then society will perceive the nation as clean too.

"So, in order to attain zero corruption, we have to correct the (behaviour of corrupt) frontliners, particularly those who deal with foreigners, ” he said.

Azam also addressed the issue of whistleblowers, saying that corruption awareness programmes were bearing fruit as a number of cases handled by the MACC over the last three years were based on information received from people who raised the alarm.

"From 2016 to August this year, a total of 231 individuals (whistleblowers) were provided protection. Out of this number, 127 were public-sector employees while 30 were from the public and private sector workers, ” he said.

He said the MACC, however, understood that many people were still reluctant to lodge complaints against corrupt practices.

"We would like to assure them that their protection is guaranteed under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010. Under the Act, whistle-blowers will be protected from detrimental action, ” he added.

"Their modus operandi is getting increasingly ingenious and they are able to get around existing laws or systems, ” said Azam.

As for programmes to educate the public on the evils of giving and offering bribes, Azam said in line with advancements in technology and lifestyle changes, MACC is now spreading its anti-corruption message to youths via programmes such as the MACC PUBG (Player Unknown Battle Ground) mobile i-Challenge.

He also said that another challenge faced by the MACC is that it has to constantly grapple with the public perception that the agency is not independent or seen to be independent and unable to discharge its duties professionally without "outside” interference.

Azam added that while it is not easy to change public perception, several steps are being taken and added that one of them is to have provisions in the Federal Constitution for the appointment of the next MACC chief commissioner.

"The second step is to have the government’s approval for the establishment of the Corruption Prevention Service Commission. Both these initiatives will need to secure the approval of the Members of Parliament in the Dewan Rakyat, ” he explained.

On Sept 2, Azam had told the media that these initiatives were decided at a recent meeting of the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption chaired by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Other measures to gain public confidence include appointing a more professional enforcement team considering that MACC - previously known as the Anti-Corruption Agency - is now focusing on cases related to the leakage of funds, issues of public interest and even national security.

He added that the MACC's graft prevention strategies have also been strengthened through its collaboration with the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC) for the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023.

Azam also said that following a review of the first phase of its transformation programme (2011 to 2013), the MACC has taken the necessary steps to beef up the agency by improving the skills of its officers.

"Under the second phase from 2013 to now, our focus is on having officers who are skilled in various fields. We don’t want officers who are only able to carry out regular investigations. We want them to be adept at conducting investigations involving economic crime, ” said Azam.

He said that as such, the MACC encourages its officers to upgrade their academic qualifications. It is also collaborating with the United Kingdom-based Nottingham Trent University to allow MACC personnel to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate courses. - Bernama

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