The amounts of money in the corruption cases involving two senior government officials in Sabah are literally “jaw-dropping” and instantly brought to the forefront of national attention.
Some are awed by the enormous amounts involved while others are infuriated that public funds have been greedily stolen.
Public discussions have so far been focused on the legal proceedings of these cases, but that shouldn’t be all, as we need to take a detour to look at what’s behind the problem in order to get a better idea how such a thing could ever happen in the first place.
The MACC should be given a big thumbs-up for having netted the “big fish” and bringing to light major corrupt practices. But, this leaves the root causes of corruption largely untouched.
Given the sheer size of our public service sector, the number of corrupt officials could be a whole lot bigger than what has so far been exposed. And given the limited resources of MACC, to round up each and every one of them is a tall order.
The key to MACC’s corruption-busting initiative should be to tackle the issue from its very root to drastically reduce the chances of corruption. This should then be augmented by strict enforcement for desired effects.
In other words, while MACC should be commended for having caught some big fish, for long term corruption fighting effectiveness, it is more critical for us to have at our finger tips how these big fish have actually come about
Sure enough the MACC will earn some praises for netting several big fish, but without a complete blockage of structural loopholes of bureaucratic corruption, another bunch of new corrupt officials will emerge after some time.
Among the many emperors of ancient China, Zhu Yuanzhang was best known for his drastic measures to wipe out corruption. It was estimated that over 10,000 corrupt officials were executed by him, but even that was not enough to stop people from misappropriating public funds because no one could stay immune to glittering temptations.
Zhu’s failure highlighted the limitations of strict enforcement and the utter importance of a healthy system to plug the corruption loopholes.
It is therefore imperative that we identify the predisposing factors for endless corruption. Could it be because these people have in their hands superlatively large powers that no checks and balances seem to work on them? Or could it be the nature of black-box operation in the tendering process that has since allowed them to seize the opportunity to bag in tremendous wealth?
We can only prevent more corrupt officials from coming into being by identifying the root causes of our problems, plugging the loopholes and establishing a transparent and accountable mechanism.
The absence of effective checks and balances, low transparency and centralization of powers will readily coax an otherwise honest government official into corruption. Human morality is not that invincible as we might want to believe.
If we do not go right into the core of the question and make amends, the achievements we have made so far may not substantially help us accomplish our long-term goal of a clean and incorrupt society.
As we are rejoicing over the MACC’s recent revelations, our existing defective and intransparent system is there quietly “hatching” more corrupt officials and more corruption.
- The views herein are that of the writer. This article was first published in mysinchew.com.