On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Purge corruption from our system

When the big fish get away, those at the bottom of the
ladder would justify their greed by claiming that there is nothing wrong in
settling for crumbs if others can get away with the icing and the cake, so to

These would include the police constables and municipal council enforcement
officers who openly offer to "settle" offences for a small amount of

Of late, there have been allegations of officers in enforcement agencies who
refuse to record reports from the public unless some gratification is

But before the public jumps on these officers, it takes two hands to clap, lest
we forget. People shouldn't grumble about corruption if they are willing to
offer bribes.

The battle against graft will require plenty of political will and giving more
clout and independence to the Anti-Corruption Agency.

It is good to read of the couple who brought up their case to the MCA and the
press after they were caught by two City Hall officers for supposedly indecent
behaviour. The officers had offered to "settle" their case for money but they

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi issued a
timely warning when he said the temptation of "easy money" had resulted in
flaws in the public service and the situation had become alarming because more
than half of the reported cases of graft involved civil servants.

The key words here are "reported cases." I am sure there are many more
unreported cases involving willing givers and those who grudgingly gave because
they wanted their cases settled.

Abdullah has correctly stated that corruption is a terrible disease that can
hurt the country's image and make the public lose confidence in the civil

He said Malaysia needed a clean image, one that is free from corruption, so
that the public, businessmen and foreign investors would have a positive
perception of our civil service.

Statistics provided by the Anti-Corruption Agency show that half of the 1,352
people arrested for graft between 1998 and 2002 were civil servants.

For a start, our leaders must stop defending our predicament by claiming that
our corruption level is not as bad as those in other neighbouring countries
such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

Why should we compare ourselves with these rotten apples? We should be looking
at Singapore and Hong Kong, for example, which take their anti-corruption
campaign seriously.

The civil servants in these two places, it must be pointed out, are among the
best paid in the world. Greed may be a natural instinct of humans but well-paid
civil servants, who take pride in their work, will be less tempted.

Bribe-takers are severely punished in these two countries; it's a constant
reminder that the law will catch up with rogue civil servants.

New approaches against corruption are obviously needed because there is nothing
new in the present approach against graft.

The ACA needs to be made an independent institution with a constitutional
status if we wish to fight this social cancer.

Candidates contesting for public offices should be required to declare their
assets, as in the United States, and not merely to the Executive.

Aspiring politicians must accept that winning public positions is a not a
shortcut to making money for themselves or their cronies.

Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said this many times at Umno gatherings,
warning of the dangers of money politics, which is simply an euphemism for

ACA officers should also be allowed to carry out periodical audits, similar to
internal audits in private companies, at government agencies dealing with the

Anti-corruption signs must be put up in these offices, warning civil servants
and the public of the consequences of corruption.

Unless our leadership is prepared to take these hard measures, corruption is in
danger of becoming entrenched in our system.