The general election XII in 2008 saw a landscape change in politics. The opposition won and formed state governments in Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Perak while maintaining the Kelantan State. The voice of change became louder in Parliament with many representatives from the opposition coalition. There were voices in Parliament and the streets that corruption is a menace in the country. Hence, issues of corruption became the main political agenda both in the ruling coalition and the opposition. The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) was perceived to be none independent in the fight against corruption. Everyone wanted a more independent and effective anti-graft entity.
The change in political scenario also contributed to the transformation of the then Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). Thus, in 2009 the then ACA forwarded a proposed new legislation to transform ACA to an independent structure for anti-graft known as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). The legislation not only gave more powers to MACC in the fight against corruption but also structural change with check and balance mechanisms to ensure an independent anti-graft entity.
The proposed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 was then passed in Parliament and came into force. There were three independent oversight bodies formed by virtue of provisions in the Act and another two formed administratively. The MACC took a bold move to have five independent oversight bodies to monitor, peruse and advice the different functions of the anti-graft entity. The five oversight bodies were namely the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB), Special Committee on Corruption (SCC), Complaints Committee, the Operations Review Panel (ORP), and the Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel (CCPP). The formation of the five independent oversight bodies showed that the MACC is truly an independent anti-graft entity. The MACC has to present its annual report to the Special Committee on Corruption which comprises of members from both the government and opposition coalition. The Committee peruses, scrutinizes and gets the MACC to explain in length every function that had been carried out in the previous year.
While the MACC had geared up in the fight against corruption as being wished for by the nation, there were some quarters that politicized issues of corruption. The MACC was blamed to be selective in its investigations when many issues of corruption were not revealed to the public and there seems no immediate action that the public wanted. The public perceived that the MACC will just nab and prosecute the person merely on complaints. Time became the accent and test for effectiveness of MACC. The public wanted swift and fast action.
When the MACC moved in to investigate corruption in illegal sand mining and export across the country, it was said to be a tool to the Federal Government to bring down certain states under the PR government, especially Selangor. When there were not many politicians especially those who fell out in the election were not arrested for perceived corruption, the issue of “big fish and small fish” became the talk of the street.
MACC was made to do lots of public relation job rather then focusing on investigations of corruption cases. The public were not patient enough. The politicians took advantage of their bigger share of voice to politicize corruption for their own political agenda. MACC was made to be their black sheep. While MACC was moving in the right direction in changing the perception, suddenly and unfortunately incident after incident occurred within its environment. The incidents were the demised of a witness, who was then a political aide for an Executive Councilor in Selangor and later the death of an accused person, who was an assistant director of Customs. Both the incidents took place within the premises of MACC.
The first incident brought serious implications to MACC. Public confidence eroded, politicians took advantage of the incident and made it a political agenda for their own political mileage. The issue was never allowed to rest even after the inquest and the recently concluded Royal Commission of Inquiry. The transformation process of ACA to MACC were perceived a failure
While, all this happened, the year 2010 show cased a change in leadership of MACC. Abu Kassim Mohamed took over the helm of MACC as its new Chief Commissioner. The government developed the Government Transformation Programme with the formulation of National Key Result Areas (NKRA). Corruption is one of the NKRA. The NKRA on Corruption focuses on three elements namely the grand corruption, procurement and enforcement.
The new leadership of MACC then immediately made an environmental scanning which showed that image and credibility of MACC badly ruined, public confidence towards MACC were low, the public could not feel the effectiveness of the transformation of MACC, political parties took advantage and politicized the transformation of MACC, and last but not least, the morale and enthusiasm of MACC officers hit rock bottom. MACC was left on their own to deal with perceptions and fighting corruption was derailed.
The farsighted leadership immediately formulated and introduced the MACC aspiration. The aspiration focused on specific initiatives to reverse the negative perception and reposition the public confidence on MACC and the fight against corruption. Internally, it focused to enhance the morale and confidence within the organization. The aspiration thus focused on three main elements of independency, transparency and professionalism.
Hence, MACC took a bold step to create the post of Deputy Chief Commissioner of Management and Professionalism in addition to the other two namely Deputy Chief Commissioner (Operations) and Deputy Chief Commissioner (Preventions). The establishment of a special division called Excellence and Professionalism to maintain and enhance professionalism in and within the human capital of MACC, Corporate Communication Unit to disseminate information and liaise with internal and external key communicators especially the media, Special Operations Division to focus on high profile and public interest cases, and Transformation Unit to study, evaluate and formulate comprehensive strategic plan pertaining to organization, structure, processes, human resource and work culture within MACC.
The MACC’s transformational leadership outlined specific vision to realize the aspiration through formulations of big wins focusing on high profile and public interest cases, enhance public confidence, and the shift from output to outcome base performance that could be seen, felt and which will derive intended impact in the fight against corruption. Thus, the transformation strategic planning outlined comprehensive focus points on four matters namely effective investigation management, effective prevention and community education, sustaining public confidence, and capacity and capability building.
The leadership did not immediately implement all the strategic plans that were formulated by the Transformation Unit but instead formed an Executive Committee on Transformation to peruse and advice the management on the implementation of the strategic plans. The Committee is lead by the Chief Commissioner himself with members comprising the three Deputy Chief Commissioner, members from the oversight committee and panel, and two experts in law i.e. a former appellate court judge who is also the chairperson of the Complaints Committee and a former federal court judge, who was a panel member of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the death of Teoh Beng Hock.
The MACC leadership practices transparency and wanted to precisely sure the effectiveness on the implementation of all strategic plans on transformation. The inclusions of experts in various fields are to advice, implement and ensure the success in implementation of the strategic plans on transformation. A number of the transformations that have been outlined and even immediately implemented were the Video Interviewing Room for recording of statement from accused person, potential accused person or witnesses with potential hostility.
The Chief Commissioner hence had advised the Directors of all state branches to be prepared for changes. They were advised to equip themselves with knowledge and understandings on financial investigations, private sector investigations and proactive investigations. All functions were to be carried out with the objectives of outcome base. All actions must have high impact and felt by the public. Investigations were not only being focused on all corruption but must also give emphasize on high profile and public interest cases. Investigations must be conducted and completed swiftly, accurately and professionally.
The Directors were also advised to make a drastic move from reactive to proactive investigations. They were now expected not only to initiate investigations based on information or reports received from complainants but to also initiate proactive investigation through intelligence based investigations.
The Directors were also expected to plan, lead, organize and control their officers to the changes. They were expected to ensure high motivation and drive within their work force to compliment and realize the initiative on transformation. Officers are expected to be knowledgeable and professional in all the functions of MACC. A highly motivated, knowledgeable and skilled human capital with good sets of attitude for transformation will be the driving factor in the proposed transformation of MACC. Thus, the transformation is a way forward to creating a new landscape in the fight against corruption.
(The article was written by Muhammad Salim Sundar, Head of Corporate Communication MACC, based on the recent presentation by the Chief Commissioner to Division and State Directors on “MACC transformation and expectations” at MACA on 18 August 2011)