Recently, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad called for the general public to assist in reporting corruption and become the eyes and ears of the MACC. In fact, the chief commissioner launched a programme called “Sahabat SPRM (Friends of MACC)” to increase public participation in the war against corruption in this country. This is indeed a positive development.
Fighting corruption is an essential part of any government’s ambitious plan to transform the nation and accelerate economic growth. However, the fight against corruption cannot be won without citizens’ support, participation and vigilance. The media, civic and business associations, trade unions and other nongovernmental actors play a crucial role in fostering public discussion on corruption and increasing awareness about its negative impacts.
In past years, we have seen some broad reforms across the board in Malaysia to intensify the fight against corruption. For example, fighting corruption was made a national key performance indicator (NKPI), which is a clear indication of just how serious we are about eradicating corruption.
The corporate integrity pledge (CIP) is one of the Government’s initiatives designed to solicit greater co-operation and participation from the private sector to fight corruption. The Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 is a new legislation protecting the rights and identities of persons who report instances of corruption. To further expedite the hearing and disposal of corruption cases, special corruption courts have been established in major cities and towns and a toll-free number was recently launched by the MACC to enable the general public to report corruption easily.
However, all these structural and cultural reforms must also be made known to people in rural areas through education, public awareness and capacity-building. Otherwise, the rural residents will remain in the dark over anti-corruption measures and implementation.
Transparency International conducted a survey involving 21,861 people in 16 countries, regions and territories across the Asia-Pacific region between July 2015 and January 2017 about their perceptions and experiences of corruption. The ensuing report estimated that over 900 million people across the 16 surveyed areas had paid a bribe in the past year when trying to access basic services like education and healthcare. Bribery rates for countries varied considerably across the region – from 0.2% in Japan to 69% in India.
The report also stated that in some countries like India, the bribery rate was very high but citizens were fairly positive about government efforts to fight corruption and a clear majority felt they could make a difference in the process. In contrast, South Korea had a very low bribery rate but citizens were critical of government efforts to fight corruption.
Rural residents can also contribute to the detection and prevention of corruption. There is a need for more programmes such as Sahabat SPRM in rural areas to educate the people and obtain their support to fight corruption.
Countries like Hong Kong, China and Korea have their anti-corruption agencies conduct regular media campaigns on corruption issues to reach rural areas.
Kazakhstan publishes corruption level indices enabling the public to compare regions, branches and departments on their ethical behaviour.
Indonesia undertakes awareness campaigns together with a coalition of nongovernmental actors, including representatives from the private sector, village heads and international civil society representatives to facilitate within the Indonesian rural population an understanding of, and support for, the government’s governance reform.
On my part, to increase the awareness of rural residents about anti-corruption measures, along with concerned residents of Hutan Melintang, we held the “Hutan Melintang Corruption Free” campaign in Bagan Datuk, Perak from July 1 to July 3.
During the campaign, 45 business premises in Hutan Melintang were visited and the MACC toll-free number to report corruption complaints were given to the owners.
Feedback from the business owners was very positive and the citizens of Hutan Melintang are ready to give full support and commitment to combat corruption.
People in rural areas are ready to support the MACC in the war against corruption.
We just have to reach out to them.