On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Perk up service with better perks

The parliamentary committee on corruption, to comprise representatives of the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, is also moving in the right direction.

Beefing up the ACA workforce and adding another 90 lawyers as Assistant Public Prosecutors to assist the Deputy Public Prosecutors to expedite the handling of cases in the lower cases all help in the quest for justice.

But at the same time, the Government must seriously look at the salary structure of our civil servants, especially the law enforcement agencies such as the police, army and Customs department.

The extra allowances, especially for the police constables, have helped them meet the increasing cost of living better but they do not make up part of the fixed salaries, so when these officers retire, the allowances don’t count.

For high-ranking officers, their salaries are decent, even comparable with the private sector, but given the tasks they handle, it is, again, nothing to shout about.

The Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan almost never has a day off, even on Hari Raya, and has had his leave forfeited for years.

For many police constables, it is a struggle to feed the family. Some, which we have become familiar with, resort to lurking behind trees and setting up questionable roadblocks with speed traps to pounce on unsuspecting errant motorists.

Many in the Klang Valley and Johor Baru take up part-time jobs and become taxi drivers, security guards, bodyguards and pasar malam traders. That’s the reality.

For clean cops, taking their children to fast-food outlets is a luxury, they will tell you.

Of course, there’s another group of corrupt officials – those who want to live lavish lifestyles, even excessively extravagant lives, and have more than one family.

Their living standard is incongruous with their pay scales – unless they are so good at the stock market.

For the ACA to work effectively, the Government needs to review the salary structure.

Good salaries attract good officers; right now, many are not civil and neither do they see themselves as servants to the public.

Make it financially attractive for Malaysians to serve the Government and it will cut down financial costs that are often passed on to the taxpayers as projects are delayed and become expensive.

The culture of kickbacks, essentially bribery, between the public and private sector has become entrenched with many foreign investors openly running us down, with disdain, at our shameful practice.

Cabinet Ministers, too, deserve better pay – like their Singaporean counterparts – to encourage good, qualified, ethical and decent people to take part in politics.

Of course, there will always be greedy people. For them, no amount of money is sufficient but, generally, professionals would not risk their reputation and dignity by being corrupt if they are comfortably off.

In Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, the civil servants are well paid and the punishment for those caught is severe. That’s a good deal.

The fight against corruption has to run parallel with a better salary scheme for civil servants, especially the law enforcement officers.

The latter is a special category; no other civil servant should compare himself with those in these high-risk jobs.

An amnesty period may not be popular with most Malaysians but a fresh start, instead of a witch-hunt, would be more effective.

We want politicians to commit themselves to this initiative to fight corruption.

Many are no doubt feeling uneasy with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s reforms but the Prime Minister needs the backing of his party leaders to make it work. Unfortunately, the perception is that many Umno politicians lack the credibility to fight bribery.