Corruption: Target takers first, they’ll handle the givers

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By TK Chua

Three pieces of news attracted my attention this morning.

The first was on the reduced budget allocation to the MACC next year: from RM294 million in 2015, RM251 in 2016 to RM216 million in 2017.

Normally, many would feel that a reduced allocation to the MACC is a sign of waning government commitment to the fight against corruption. However, we do not have to think this way. The amount of allocation per se is not a true measure of government commitment.

On the contrary, more stringent allocations should be applied across the board to all ministries and agencies. It is time for the government to buck up. For far too long, annual allocations have been too loosely and carelessly given.

I have said many times earlier, budget allocations to all ministries and agencies can be easily reduced by 20 per cent without affecting their programmes and outputs. All they need to do is to re-prioritise and re-focus their programmes and re-examine their purchases based on value for money.

We have allowed fat to grow in most ministries and agencies, whether in good times or bad. The annual budget processes are just mere “add-on” exercises, rather than based on thorough examinations of programmes and projects in order to stay lean, relevant and pertinent. It is time to stop the nonsense, regardless of the government’s financial position.

The second piece I read was the call by the Director-General of Immigration Mustafar Ali to charge both the givers and the takers of bribes. I think this idea should be supported except we have been talking about this for years without much headway.

It is true, “If no one is giving, then no one will take”. But the problem is between the takers and givers, the takers have more power. No one would probably want to bribe an official if they could get their job done without it.

Be that as it may, I am not saying the givers are faultless. If there are attempts to bribe public officials to circumvent regulations or to hide the crimes committed, then the givers should be arrested and charged. The problem is how often do public officials report attempted briberies to their superiors or the right authorities?

So, between the chicken and egg, I say let’s tackle the chicken first – government officials have more responsibility than the public when it comes to tackling corruption. Be very strict with government officials and they, in turn, will be strict with the people. It is futile to get into the polemics of takers and givers in corruption.

Finally, I support the third piece of news I read – “Immigration Director-General wants to expose companies which hire and harbour illegal migrant workers, aside from seizing and freezing assets”.

I think foreign workers, whether legal or illegal, are getting out of hand in this country. It is no longer just a manpower issue. It has become a human trafficking, massive exploitation, mega corruption and downward spiral production function issue.

We routinely send illegal migrant workers to detention centres. I think in addition to seizing their assets and shaming them in public, employers of illegal workers too must be jailed. It is time to act tough, not just talk.

This country needs orderly and controlled migration of foreign workers, not indiscriminate and illegal entry assisted by corrupted officials and greedy employers.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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