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Public Administration in Southeast Asia


Table 9.1 Corruption Cases from 2000 to 2005











No. of Investigations


No. of Arrests

No. Charged















































































Source: Anti-Corruption Agency.

(MACC) was perceived to be selective in its investigations but thus far recent developments have not demonstrated otherwise.

9.4.2 Public Accounts Committee and Public Complaints Bureau

The Public Accounts Committee is appointed pursuant to Standing Orders No. 77(1). It also has the power under Standing Orders No. 77(5) to summon persons, requests issuance of letters, papers and records, and statements to Parliament. The committee identifies areas that warrant explanation from the auditor-general’s report and then may request the relevant agencies or ministries for information and explanations to queries of non-conformity raised in the report.

The official duties of the Public Accounts Committee are to:

(1)Check the accounts of the federation and the appropriation of the sums granted by Parliament to finance public expenditure

(2)Such accounts of public authorities and other bodies administering public funds as may be laid before the House

(3)Reports of the auditor-general laid before the House in accordance with Article 107 of the constitution

(4)Such other matters as the committee may think fit, or which may be referred to the committee by the House

The Public Complaints Bureau is set up under the Prime Minister’s Department and provides an informal remedy for the public. It was initially under the General Planning Division, Prime Minister’s Department in 1971 in respect of the Public Administration Development Circular No. 4/1992 – Management of Public Complaints, and Administrative Development Circular Letter No. 1/2002 – Improving the Effectiveness of Managing Public Complaints. The Public Complaints Bureau is one of the mechanisms set up whereby the public can lodge complaints on malpractices and abuse of power in the public service via a computerized complaints management system or traditional modes of writing and telephone calls to the bureau. The specific objectives of the bureau are to: (1) resolve complaints efficiently, fairly, and effectively; (2) improve the rate of resolving complaints received from the public; (3) provide and improve facilities for the public to lodge complaints;

(4) reduce repetitive complaints against the public services; (5) introduce changes and innovation based on public complaints received; (6) provide advisory services to agencies in order to improve the

© 2011 by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC

Public Ethics and Corruption in Malaysia 183

effectiveness of the public complaints management system; (7) detect issues that can lead to complaints made by the public; and (8) obtain public opinion to ensure the success of the government’s development programs.

Evidence to date suggests that the objectivity of the Public Accounts Committees’ findings can be questionable because of the appointment of the committee chairman by the ruling party, a member of the ruling party, therefore a conflict of interest may arise due to impartiality and non-independence. Further, witnesses may be reluctant to testify against the government and are under no obligation to do so. The bureau also acts as the secretariat to the Permanent Committee on Public Complaints, chaired by the chief secretary to the government and has senior officials from central agencies as members.

The powers of the Permanent Committee are outlined in Development Administration Circular No. 4 of 1992 on managing public complaints. It cannot instruct any compensation to be paid or any decision previously made to be reversed, although suggestions can be made. No prosecution or subpoena can be made, but government departments are merely required to look into the complaints and provide replies.

Accordingly, many complaints concerned delays in taking action, lack of public facilities and services, unfair action, inadequacies of policy implementation and law, failure of enforcement, failure to adhere to procedures, unsatisfactory quality of service, abuse of power, and misconduct of civil servants. Complaints relating to corruption were channeled to the ACA/MACC for investigation. In 2007, the latest report of the Public Complaints Bureau revealed that it received and investigated a total of 5347 cases and managed to solve 89.1% of the total.6 The ten agencies with the most cases received in 2007 are shown in Table 9.2.

9.4.3 Auditor-General’s Office

The Auditor-General’s Office was set up under the 1978 Audit Amendment Act and the 1983 Audit Amendment Act to investigate and report cases of non-compliance with laws and regulations regarding finance management. The Auditor-General’s Department is to ensure that public expenditure, revenue, and assets are well managed and accounted for according to the law and established procedures. In accordance with legal provisions, the auditor-general is required to submit his findings to Parliament for the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee. The auditor-general’s role and responsibilities are clearly spelt out in the federal constitution (Articles 106 and 107) and the Audit Act 1957. However, despite improvements introduced, there still exist weaknesses as witnessed in (i) preparation of budget estimates that exceed actual requirements; (ii) additional allocations requested are not expended; and (iii) weaknesses in expenditure control, assets management, internal control with respect to revenue collection and in the management of development projects.

9.4.4 National Integrity Institute/Plan

Little thought is given to what the ethical basis of public governance is or might be. In many cases, ethical codes are never seriously enforced or are only selectively enforced. They are only as valid as the practices of the chief executive officers (CEOs) and other corporate executives who promulgate them. They are worth as much as a corporate vision statement, which not many adhere to. The fact that only some cases are judged and enforced with any equity highlights

6 Annual Report 2007, Public Complaints Bureau, 24–27.

© 2011 by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC


Public Administration in Southeast Asia



Table 9.2 Ten Agencies with Most Cases Received in 2007












Total Resolved






and Justified










Royal Malaysian Police












Public Works Department












Tenaga Nasional Berhad












State Education Department












Department of Irrigation and


















Kuala Lumpur City Hall












National Registration


















Employees Provident Fund












Inland Revenue Board












Welfare Department










Source: Adapted from Public Complaints Bureau Annual Report 2007.

the problem of a growing discrepancy in ethical treatment based on social and other factors of class status. This assessment goes hand-in-hand with the recent scandals that have raised public awareness of the need for a broader ethical approach to governance. Probably, the shift to postmodernism and amoral secularism that rely largely on external forces, is designed to coerce good behavior, as opposed to appealing to internal goodness despite the strong affiliation to religious practices in some cases.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that there have been efforts to inject more professionalism and dynamism to ethics and integrity in the current governance. The achievement of the National Integrity Plan (NIP) can be speeded up through the immediate implementation of transparency as a core principle at all government levels. The launch of the NIP in April 2004 and the setting up of the National Integrity Institute are the first steps in strengthening the principles of transparency, accountability, and good governance. Integrity and ethics often tend to focus on principles of action, on the action itself, and its consequences.

Accordingly, the approach adopted by the NIP is to coordinate the various components and sectors in their efforts to enhance integrity, requiring each of these to devise and implement their own programs. It is hoped that synergy arising from such implementation will contribute toward enhancing the integrity of society in general across the nation.

In Chapter 4 of its plan, the NIP spells out the broad definition of ethics and the integrity of individuals and organizations and professional ethos. Specifically in relation to ethics and integrity, the first target is to effectively reduce corruption, malpractices, and abuse of power and the third target is to enhance corporate governance and business ethics. However, the NIP’s measurement target set for improvement from the score of 5.2 in 2003 for the nation by TI on the CPI to a score of 6.5 in 2008 and ranking at 30th position has not been achieved. So far, up to September 2009, there has been no updated information by the Integrity Institute of Malaysia

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Public Ethics and Corruption in Malaysia 185

on its next course action as, apparently, the plan only covers a 5-year period from 2003 to 2008 though it was officially set up in April 2004 prior to its tabling to the Special Cabinet Committee on March 31, 2003 [7].

Efforts to enhance integrity have to be holistic, continuous in nature, and guided by the principles and objectives of the NIP. The overall approach is the mobilization of all components and sectors of the government and society to uphold the objectives and targets as well as to encourage cooperation and coordination among these components and sectors. The approach calls for synergy at the top and bottom rung of administration. The setting up of the Integrity Management Committee at the federal, state, and district levels to address all levels of the government machinery was to ensure the inculcation and integration of values in the public sector with eight terms of reference, namely, legislations, system and work procedure, noble values and ethics, code of ethics, recognition, internal control, investigative and punitive action, as well as rehabilitation in periodic reporting. The extent of the accomplishments of the Integrity Management Committee at the different levels of administration are not known, but seemingly the Select Committee for Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) for the Selangor state government led by the opposition party, Pakatan Rakyat, Speaker of the House, Mr. Teng Chan Khim (instead of the ruling party, National Coalition Front at the federal level), and also in the Penang state government, with its own CAT (competent, accountable, and transparent) formed in 2008, have been very active in conducting investigations of senior civil servants over allocations of funds and the expenditure nature of state assemblymen with regard to government procurement and contracts. The Executive Council of Selcat holds weekly meetings and open inquiry. Nonetheless, elected representatives are prohibited from questioning Selcat as the state government is working very hard in establishing a clean government as opposed to the previous state government held by the National Coalition. There has been resistance from district officers as changes are difficult to embrace, but such impact has impressed the public on the seriousness of the committee in eradicating corruption and upholding public and work ethics.7 The state of Penang has been commended in the Global Corruption Report 2009 by TI for introducing several measures with regard to government procurement allowing savings of RM36 million in the state’s operating budget and another RM34 million over 3 years from transparent negotiation over the price of solid waste disposal that reduced the rates agreed on by the previous National Coalition Front administration by 42.4%.8 While the leadership should be exemplary and provide guidance, those at the bottom rung should give support, feedback as well as provide check and balance on the leadership. In this manner, efforts to enhance integrity will produce a dynamism and momentum of its own.

The NIP has five thrusts, the first of which reads, “to effectively reduce corruption, malpractices and abuse of power” and the third thrust to “enhance corporate governance and business ethics [8].” The specific objectives of the NIP [9] are: (i) give direction and guidance to various sectors so that they will work together to build a united, harmonious, moral, and ethical society; (ii) raise the level of awareness, commitment, and cooperation among all sectors in their efforts at enhancing integrity so that integrity becomes a way of life and practiced in all fields; (iii) encourage a sense of responsibility among members of the community and promote the development of civil society that respects and upholds the principles of integrity; (iv) strengthen the moral foundations of the community and the country, and improve the well-being of the people; and (v) raise


The Star, September 23, 2009, p. 10.


The Sun, September 25, 2009, p. 7.

© 2011 by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC

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