The Road to Less Corruption in Malaysia

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“The battle against corruption is not something we can win overnight,” says Dato’ Hisham Nordin, NKRA Anti-Corruption director, “but there is definitely a light at the end of that tunnel.”

Established in 2009, the NKRA was set up as part of the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) under Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak to curb corruption and thus assist on the mission of making Malaysia a high-income nation by 2020.

Made up of personnel from different government departments including the Road & Transport Ministry, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Ministry of Health, Dato’ Hisham admits that the last three years have been tough on him and his team at NKRA. “We went through many ups and downs,” he says. “These days, forms of corruption have become more sophisticated – people can engage in illegal trade online or hide behind business decisions that look transparent but, in reality, are not at all.”

Modern technology has undoubtedly added to the woes of the NKRA, but it has not served to dampen the spirits of Dato’ Hisham and his team. “You have to fight corruption with your heart and soul. I can safely say that after three years, things are looking up for us. Our results are the second highest amongst all the NKRA units and the culture that we have brought about here has impacted the culture of Malaysian society in a positive way,” he says.

Dato’ Hisham believes that an important factor in the fight against corruption is changing the perception of the Malaysian people. “We need to gain the confidence of the people, to show them that we are not a PR gimmick, but rather a genuine unit serious about this mission,” he says. “We cannot work alone and need more than just the support from the government and the MACC – we need the press and the public to join forces as well.”

In the short time it has been in existence, the NKRA has already had an impact, and Dato’ Hisham speaks of the changes made within the justice system that have already made a noticeable difference: “When we first started, the number of backlogged cases was close to 700. We also noticed that corruption cases were very lengthy, averaging 8.5 years to be brought to court. “

The team identified that these lags reduced the number of conviction cases, as “The longer you wait, the more the severity of the crime fades from people’s minds, thus affecting the impact of the sentencing.”  To tackle this problem, the NKRA requested 14 new corruption courts, and brought in more senior judges specialising in corruption cases, to ensure that the most appropriate sentencing was given out. Also, junior prosecutors were replaced by senior ones to guarantee that prosecutors stood on equal ground with experienced lawyers in the courtroom. Combined with the Speedy Trial Act, these steps ensured all cases went to trial within a year, increasing the conviction rate from 60 to 80% and thus ensuring that fewer criminal were avoiding punishment.

Malaysia, having recently played host to the 6th Annual International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities General Meeting and Conference, which Dato’ HIsham describes as a “huge honour”, the NKRA has proven that Malaysia can hold its own amongst other world powers, and that the successful work of the NKRA has put the country on the map: “Out of the 910 delegates who attended this event, most of them spoke highly of Malaysia and agreed that we have taken some huge steps already.”

“There are people who don’t want to acknowledge our success,” admits Dato’ Hisham, “but the fact that we have risen from 28 to 49% on the Global Corruption Barometer shows that the difficulties faced are being tackled effectively.”

Despite the progress made, Dato’ Hisham is acutely aware that more needs to happen in order to eradicate as much corruption as possible. “People need to put aside personal and political party interests for the good of the nation,” he stresses. “We can’t have first class facilities operating alongside third class mentalities. We have to do all that we can as individuals.”

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In line with that pledge, Dato’ Hisham has taken on a zero tolerance policy towards corruption – one that he believes will help the nation better itself in the quest to emerge victorious.  “I am confident that we are on the right track already. We are working towards a better future for the country and if we all agree to say no to any kind of corruption at any level, we will be able to leave our children and our grandchildren with a brighter future.”  

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For more information on the NKRA, visit www.nkracorruption.gov.my

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Source: The Expat November 2012

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