Graft cost country RM10 billion a year

Posted by SM Maulana

By Tim Leonard, THE SUN

Corruption, if left to fester, can cause the country to lose RM10 billion a year in domestic growth.

Pemudah, the government’s special task force to facilitate business, gave this cost of corruption statistic in pushing its case for the Anti-Corruption Agency to be given a quick fix and a much-needed shot in the arm to give investors confidence to do business here.

Statistics made available to theSun show the ACA’s performance is dismal — it has only investigated 10.1% or just 7,223 cases out of the total of 71,558 reported between 2000 and 2006.
Pemudah co-chairman Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon told theSun in a recent interview that the statistics and dismal results could pose bigger problems for the country in years to come. “Something must be done fast as the actual situation is a serious cause for concern,” he said.

“The ACA must be given more resources to work with, including an increase in budget by the Government. It is about time to seriously consider recruiting foreign officers to work with the ACA on a contractual basis to solve more cases.”

Yong said World Bank statistics show that corruption can reduce the country’s growth rate by between two and four per cent and this translates to a loss of up to RM10 billion a year.
He said although the ACA is trying to better itself, the figures speak for themselves and paint a gloomy picture of things to come.

Of the total number of cases reported in that seven-year period, only 4.1% or 2,905 people were arrested, 1.8% or 1,287 persons charged/prosecuted and only 0.7% or 524 actually convicted.
“We should perhaps look at emulating the success of Hong Kong, which has done very well in curbing corruption,” said Yong.

Between 2000 and 2006, Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigated 77.2% or 21,649 cases out of the 28,057 reported, with 29.2% ending up in arrests.
“On an average, the Hong Kong Government spends close to RM40 per capita on anti-corruption efforts. In Malaysia, the sum is just a mere RM5 per capita.”

Yong added: “So it is time the Government looked seriously into the problems affecting ACA and work out a solution. Even if RM1 billion is spent on improvising the ACA, the Government will actually be saving RM 9 billion.”

The Government’s allocation for the ACA last year was RM148 million.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam

Transparency International Malaysia president Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the country risks dropping further on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) if immediate efforts are not taken to put ACA in order. Malaysia has remained at the 43rd spot for the past two years.

In 2003, the country was at the 37th spot, before sliding to the 39th spot in 2004 and gradually to its current position.

Navaratnam said he hoped the ACA would become independent from the Prime Minister’s Department.

“At present, there is less than satisfactory public confidence in the ACA. It is about time the ACA is free from the control of the PM’s office as this will ensure greater transparency, integrity and accountability.”

Navaratnam added it was also time for ACA to be made up of credible people, especially as it will be made a commission soon as announced by the prime minister shortly after the general election.
When contacted, ACA director-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan said it will be hard for Malaysia to emulate Hong Kong’s success in anti-corrution efforts.

“Hong Kong is a small, one-state country but we are bigger so we can’t be compared to them,” said Ahmad, in response to Yong’s call.

“We cannot investigate all the cases that were reported because some were anonymous letters, poison pen letters and tip-offs from even Government servants.

“We did investigate all those cases which we could and left no stones unturned in our investigations,” he said.
He added that the ACA has no problem if it is placed under Parliament. “We are constantly striving to be the best and it doesn’t matter under whom we work.”


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