Sunday, 1 April 2012

The need for a Big Bang impact

Below is an extract from "Fighting corruption: The need for a Big Bang impact" by Anna Taing under the "Random Thoughts" category, April 2, 2012. I can't agree more with the article, and I would like to extend it to Corporate Governance. Despite all the raving articles, the new regulations etc. of the authorities (Securities Commission and Bursa Malaysia), they still haven't managed to get a single conviction (jail sentence, fine or even as little as a reprimand) against a "big shot": either a Blue Chip company, a Government Linked Company or an established tycoon. And that is what is very much needed, to give credibility to the enforcement, to show they really mean business.

"Last Friday, the financial markets of Hong Kong were rocked by news of the arrest of two of Asia's richest tycoons by the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC), its anti-graft agency. According to news reports, Thomas and Raymond Kwok, joint chairman and managing directors of Sun Hung Kai Properties, were arrested as part of an alleged corruption and bribery probe.

Such high-level investigations and arrests are not something that we see in Malaysia. And we say that this is exactly the kind of "big bang" impact that Malaysia needs in its fight to eradicate corruption.

Despite the proclamation of success by the government, there is widespread perception that nothing has changed and that corruption is still very persuasive in this country, particularly between the government and the business community.

It didn't help when Malaysia fell four places from 56 to 60 in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index for 2011.

To be fair, the government has made some headway in fighting corruption with the enactment of the Whistleblower's Act and the publication of offender's faces in the Name and Shame database available on the NKRA website.

Primarily because the measures put in place are seen as "baby steps", there is still a perception that many big offenders have escaped the net, mainly because some are said to be high-powered and well-linked politically. According to the 2010 report of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, 381 people were charged for corruption during the year, of whom 193 were members of the public, 131 were civil servants, 56 private sector employees and amazingly, only one politician.

So, unless there is a clear demonstration that all offenders, big and small, rich and poor, politician or tycoon, are brought to book, the country will never really be able to declare a complete victory in the battle against corruption.

Yes, fighting corruption takes time, but it also can take too long. This is more so when Malaysia wants to become a high-income nation by 2020, and corruption has been singled out as one of the key impediments to the country's economic growth.

In Hong Kong, in the 1970's, corruption was so rampant it was almost a way of live and a norm of government departments. The ICAC was setup in 1974, which resulted in the arrest of a horde of government officials, including high ranking ones. Today, Hong Kong is one of the least corrupt cities in the world.

Thus, it is only by showing the culprits that no one can escape the net that the battle against corruption can be really successful. Going after the small offenders and convicting them is not enough. Catching the big fish will send a stronger and more effective message that Malaysia has no room for corruption. Let's learn from Hong Kong."

1 comment:

  1. There are certainly many big fish in the barrel of corruption that can be charged and successfully prosecuted.