PUTRAJAYA: The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) remains resolute in its commitment to inculcate integrity values and good governance practices in the civil service, says Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan (pic).
The EAIC chairman said maintaining integrity among civil servants has always been the key issue and remains in the spotlight among Malaysians today.
The former chief secretary to the Government said towards this end, the EAIC was established to realise the government’s aspiration of enhancing integrity among enforcement officers and agencies, in a bid to improve the trust and confidence that the people have in the public sector.
"Integrity (issues) happens all the time, throughout the years. And integrity weaknesses will never end, despite repeated calls by the government, with such issues taking centre stage on social media.
"This is good but we should learn lessons from it and try to eliminate or at least reduce it from occurring, thus preventing it from rearing its ugly head.
"This will automatically make members of the public the eyes and ears of the EAIC,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview at his office recently.
Mohd Sidek, who was appointed as EAIC chairman for a three-year term beginning July 2020, said integrity among civil servants was crucial in ensuring the government gains full public trust and this should not be taken lightly.
As such, he said, government servants especially enforcement agencies under EAIC’s supervision should stay clear of issues related to breaches of integrity such as corruption and misconduct, lest the nation and the people pay the price, if left unchecked.
"Integrity is beyond issues of corruption and abuse of power. Integrity is about doing your best, doing to others what you like to do to yourself. That is integrity.
"Corruption or abuse of authority should not be tolerated. A sustainable culture of integrity must be built within the organisation. You don’t go to office and shirk your responsibility, clocking in and taking a break, that’s an integrity issue. As a civil servant, we mustn’t do that. Give your best to the service,” he said.
"Public hanging" concept
Mohd Sidek, who has served in the public service for more than 50 years, said efforts at building a culture of integrity should be given emphasis.
Hence, the concept of "public hanging" should be introduced, especially when any government servant is involved and is found guilty of misconduct, he added.
"When I was the chief secretary, I said ‘hanging’ (as a concept) must be done in public. This refers to an officer who faces integrity issue and is found guilty, and that he or she is dismissed from service.
"(It) should be announced at the workplace, don’t sweep it under the carpet. This also serves as a warning to other (government) officers not to make the same mistake as it can happen to them too,” he said.
Elaborating, he said if the concept of "public hanging" is implemented, the integrity issue among public servants could be minimised.
"In the government service, we must be firm but firmness means we should also be fair, we can’t just act on hearsay and immediately dismiss (the officer). The process must be fair, a thorough investigation should be conducted to prevent the officer from being wrongly accused,” he said.
However, he noted that in general, for someone of integrity, the individual should inculcate moral and ethical values in all aspects of life.
According to Mohd Sidek, integrity failure can arise from various imbalances such as an increase in corruption and breach of trust, especially from aspects of governance and organisational administration.
He said an individual without integrity - whether he or she is a department head or an employee in a public organisation or private sector - will always seek opportunities for their own personal gains without considering the implications on the organisation’s image.
"It is our shared responsibility as government servants to empower and maintain a culture of integrity in all aspects of our life. As such, public sector employees should be imbued with a spirit of service and integrity values right from the start of his or her appointment. This is what should be emphasised,” he added.
He said given the importance of "tone from the top" in organisations, leaders must exhibit the kind of behaviour they want to encourage in others, and as such, "it is incumbent on all parties to play their role and stand united in helping to restore Malaysia’s image as a nation of integrity.”
Mohd Sidek also cautioned that there should not be any compromise when it comes to misconduct for government servants.
EAIC, with its motto "Assertive, Transparent, Efficient", was entrusted with regulating 21 enforcement agencies including the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK), Immigration Department (JIM) and Road Transport Department (JPJ), since April 1, 2011.
EAIC also protects the interests of the public, formulates and puts in place mechanisms for the detection, investigation and prevention of misconduct by enforcement officers, provides for the auditing and monitoring of particular aspects of the operations and procedures of an enforcement agency, he said.
According to Mohd Sidek, EAIC, with 78 staff, has been performing its functions and roles as stipulated in Section 4(1) of Act 700, among others, to receive complaints or misconduct from the public against an enforcement officer or against an enforcement agency in general and to investigate into and conduct hearings on such complaints.
Since its inception in April 2011, EAIC has received 6,122 complaints toward various enforcement agencies including 704 in 2022.
"Complaints were received through various mediums such as e-Complaints, email, complainant’s presence, official letters, ‘poison pen letters’, mass media, reference from government agencies, and so on,” he said.
He said the 2022 figures (704 complaints) were however 34% lower than the previous year.
The highest number of complaints received and recorded were through the e-Complaints platform (401) followed by email (151).
"All complaints received were presented to the Complaints Committee at its daily (working day) meetings to study, consider and recommend the appropriate action on the complaints; they were then brought forth for consideration and approval by the Commission at its meeting.
"Of the total complaints received in 2022 (704), 612 complaint files were opened. As of Dec 31, 2022, a total of 535 investigation files were addressed by the Commission at its meeting.
"Of 612 complaint files opened, only 50 investigation files were opened, and of the total, 23 investigation files were addressed,” he said, adding that complaints received showed public awareness of EAIC’s presence.
Citing the breakdown in public complaints which were recorded based on enforcement agencies in 2022, he said, among the highest were the police (500 complaints), Immigration (40), JPJ and AADK (12 each), Customs Department (10) and National Registration Department, or JPN (10).
Mohd Sidek said its main challenge is to ensure that all agencies under its supervision appreciate the aspirations of EAIC and the government in strengthening integrity.
"That’s our challenge. And I think, generally we have succeeded, this is a long process. But beyond the issue of integrity, the challenge for all of us is to give our best without compromising on the issue of integrity,” he said.
He also urged all Muslims serving enforcement agencies under its supervision to emulate Prophet Muhammad SAW in every aspect of their life including while they are at their workplace.
By emulating the virtues (of maintaining good moral conduct at all times) as exemplified by Rasulullah (PBUH), we will strive to achieve excellence. And insya-Allah (God willing), such virtues will not end with us alone. Our good traits will inspire our staff to re-energise their commitment, hence motivating all civil servants to give their best,” he said.
Mohd Sidek also said that collaboration between EAIC and the police has been fostered through dialogue sessions with the respective senior officers several years ago and a similar approach will also be taken with other enforcement agencies.
"Although the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) Act 2022 (Act 839) will be enforced in July (2023) and PDRM will no longer be under EAIC’s supervision, the close cooperation between the Commission and the police will continue,” he added. - Bernama