Annual heartbreak report

Auditor General Report book cover

ACCORDING to my calculations, it’s the first time in at least three years that the Federal Government has submitted its annual Auditor-General’s Report prior to the announcement of the Budget.

While the early release of the annual A-G's Report is a healthy development and should be continued, time and again Malaysians are treated to the same range of emotions - heartache, outrage and disbelief.

There in fact appears to be the sense that nothing can go right; that year-in-year-out it’s “business as usual” despite the laundry list of overpaid or missing equipment, delayed projects, poorly maintained facilities and falling roofs, or what have you.

It’s this sense, as the years go by, there is the distinct possibility that we may become more desensitised to and disenfranchised by these reports; “Ah, for what I care so much, every year more and more things are going to disappear. More cows, more condos, more more more”.

My contention is that it is this exact blasé attitude which we must fend off, that we must fight against - this creeping sense that nothing can change for the better, or that even if we fight we would still lose.

Perhaps it’s because we’ve been thinking about the problem - endemic corruption and perpetual wastages - as requiring a very straightforward solution. That it is a problem that we can go to war against, like when we hear constant talk of picking up arms against drugs or gangsters.

But I suspect that - just like the war on drugs or gangsters - the war on corruption is being wrongly waged.

We are thinking of fighting a “conventional warfare” against an enemy that is amorphous, elusive and dynamic.

I think we must consider “asymmetrical” strategies or “guerilla warfare”, to continue the military metaphor, in our quest to arrest corruption especially in, but not limited to, the Federal Government.

It begins by solidifying a sense of defiance and resistance to that feeling of helplessness, that sense that we cannot do anything about these things.

We must begin to believe that our actions - our loud and crass voices, our angry and persistent tweets, our irate and indignant Facebook posts - can and do make a difference. And then we must act.

With this spirit set, we have already won half the war.

The next barrage comes in the form of personal empowerment - we ourselves must say no to graft.

While we may have no power over other people who are involved in corrupt practices, even if they are loved ones, we have power over ourselves.

So the next time you feel the need to give an enforcer some “duit kopi”, a city council member a “treat”, or a secretary to someone in office a “present”, don't - especially if they threaten to give you a ticket, stop your development, programme or project, or refuse you entry or access. Don’t give in. Fight the urge.

It will be tough. Your house which is under renovation might suddenly get some visitors. Or your plans for a 10-storey complex might suddenly be instructed to be reduced to seven-storeys. Or your annual Malaysia Day street celebrations might suddenly and at the last minute, have its permit revoked.

Yes, it will be troublesome. Yes, you will have headaches. Yes, things will take longer to get done. But we must learn that if we want this nation to grow, and to grow up good, corruption must stop. There are no two ways about it.

Let these Annual Heartbreak Reports be the rallying cry that reminds us - we must make sacrifices to become the better Malaysia we long for.

The views expressed are entirely the writer's own

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