Complete farce that the public service which had allowed Malaysia’s international corruption ranking to plunge from 23rd to 37th placing in past nine years should be preparing a National Integrity Plan
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): The country and people have been taken by surprise by the announcement of the Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman yesterday that the National Integrity Plan, which will provide guidelines for public and private-sector employees and the society on the formation of a nation with integrity, will be submitted to the Cabinet end of next month. (Bernama)
Although Samsuddin said that the secretariat preparing the plan was now holding a series of seminars for sectors like the public and private sectors, non-governmental organisations, professional bodies and schools to get their views, it is clear that the whole process suffers from the fatal flaw of minimal public participation as there had been no public discussion or debate of such a plan in the media whatsoever.
It is a complete farce that the public service which had allowed Malaysia’s international corruption ranking to plunge from 23rd to 37th placing in the past nine years in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) should be preparing a National Integrity Plan, when this should be entrusted to an independent, credible and reputable National Integrity Commission.
The National Integrity Plan should have as its objective the establishment and strengthening of a National Integrity System which is a holistic approach dealing in its totality with the goal of promoting good government and good governance by firstly, combating corruption, public misconduct and misappropriations and secondly, ensuring efficient and effective government working in the public interest.
Examples from other countries have shown that among the many important elements of such a holistic approach for a National Integrity Plan include issues such as:
Can a National Integrity Plan drafted by the public service deal with any of these key issues of a National Integrity System, and if not, what is the use of such a draft National Integrity Plan?
Will a National Integrity Plan drafted by civil servants propose the public declaration of assets by Cabinet Ministers, emulating New Zealand, whose Cabinet Ministers are required to declare in writing financial interests and assets that they hold, including shares and property, and the Register of Ministers’ interests is tabled in the New Zealand Parliament, thereby becoming a public document and open to scrutiny by the media?
Will a National Integrity Plan drafted by civil servants propose that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) be taken out of the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department and be made answerable only to Parliament, with the establishment of an all-party Parliamentary Committee on Corruption and Public Service Ethics to monitor the ACA performance and its fight against corruption?
Will a National Integrity Plan drafted by civil servants propose that Malaysia fully embrace the right to information as the foundation to build good governance, transparency, accountability and to eliminate corruption, with a liberal access to information regime allowing for investigative journalism to help in the war against corruption?
Will a National Integrity Plan drafted by civil servants propose wide-ranging Whistleblowers Protection provisions, whether legislative or administrative, giving immunity from departmental victimization or criminal prosecution such as under the Official Secrets Act to serving or retired public servants who perform the “national service” to expose corruption and misconduct in the civil service?
As the answers to the four above questions are in the negative, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should establish an independent, credible and reputable National Integrity Commission to draft a National Integrity Plan, involving all stakeholders in the country and making full use of the mass media to ensure a meaningful start to introduce a new culture of public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption, so that Malaysia can be ranked among the world’s ten least corruption nations.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman