KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 (Bernama) -- As the issue of corruption takes centre stage in the body polity of many a country, those fighting graft increasingly become a target of criticism.
This is because the assessment on the performance and effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) inevitably remains a guessing game in the absence of defined parameters and added with the confusion over what is desirable, and how much of that is achievable.
While there could be an endless number of opinions, and fairly diverse ones at that, the evidence to strengthen the arguments is in short supply.
Analysts still suffer from a dearth of data about evaluation and measurement of the actual outcomes and the impact that any ACA initiatives have on fund utilisation, policy formulation and adherence to the norms of financial prudence.
Information on why certain initiatives work, while others donâ€™t, is equally sparse. While armchair critics paint all initiatives with a broad brush and accuse the ACAs of not producing expected results, those involved vigorously dispute the validity of such accusations.
Insisting that ACAs must meet the lofty expectations of their governments while other governance structures and mechanisms remain either absent and or suffer from limitations is unreasonable, the much maligned ACAs retort.
An economic paradigm in which corruption takes place is a complex labyrinth; there are layers beneath layers, and then some more.
Expecting ACAs to navigate their way through all of that, their path riddled with obstacles and resistance, find out problem areas, plug the leaks, dodge or confront the bad guys, and then apply all the correctives that can withstand the sharp minds of the corrupt, is akin to asking them to bite off more than they can chew, and then blaming them for a job poorly done.
For an effective performance evaluation to happen, an established set of standard performance measures and indicators should be in place. Assessment based merely on perception does not hold water.
Transparency International Asia Pacific (TIAP) Regional Director Srirak Plipat believes that it is crucial to ascertain if ACAs have the relevant capabilities to carry out their job effectively before people pass their judgment on their performance and effectiveness.
The performance of the ACAs cannot be measured with any certainty until and unless an evidence-based evaluation and assessment are conducted.
â€œFor any assessment and evaluation to be true to the mark, these should not be confined to the performance of the ACAs alone. Instead, they should be carried out in a holistic manner by taking into consideration the environment in which they operate,â€ Plipat told Bernama.
This process requires an in-depth analysis and a marked distinction â€" and acknowledgement â€" between what is expected and what is achievable. External factors such as public support and participation, availability of sufficient funds and resources, and an inclusive and enabling mandate must be factored into the equation.
To provide a meaningful and an effective evaluation process for the ACAs in the Asia-Pacific region, TIAP embarked on a project to develop an ACA Index, which will act as an effective â€˜report cardâ€™ of sorts for the ACAs.
For this purpose, 27 anti-corruption experts from 12 countries in Asia and Europe gathered here recently to participate in the inaugural â€˜Expertsâ€™ Workshop on Methodology Development for the ACA Index.â€™
During the two-day workshop, participants set out to identify research methodologies, benchmarks and indicators to help ACAs ascertain their position on the performance ladder.
According to Plipat, Malaysia has successfully developed a clear set of indicators with established institutions, including the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), to chart out and monitor their performance and introduce various anti-corruption programmes to achieve the desired objectives.
â€œOrganisations such as Performance Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu) and the National Key Result Areas (NKRA), which oppose corruption, play an important role in identifying specific goals and charting out the milestones on how to go about achieving them,â€ Plipat said.
Law enforcement alone, no matter how effective, will not be able to stamp out corruption in the long run. A gradual transformation in the society is necessary for a lasting success.
To ensure that everyone is on the same page, the MACC communicates with other government and non-government agencies, students and teachers, big corporations and small businesses, including the general public, on a regular basis. The MACC has also garnered public support in its war against corruption.
â€œMalaysia is in a position to contribute substantially in terms of developing the indicators. Many of its anti-corruption policies have been adopted as good practices in a number of countries,â€ Plipat noted.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND MULTILATERAL AGREEMENTS
The Malaysian government recognises that corruption, if left unchecked, will jeopardise the success of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP).
The legal provisions against corruption and the types of offences defined by the Malaysian law have been expanded over time. Punishments have also been made harsher, and the power of investigation bestowed upon the MACC has been broadened.
The government aims to complete all corruption trials within one year once they land in the Corruption Courts. Between 2013 and 2016, the government aims to investigate 85%, 90%, and 95% of all corruption cases annually, thus making an incremental advance every year.
Various legal provisions, continuous improvement regarding the MACC functioning and the recent appointment of former Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) President Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan as the Minister in charge for national integrity, are evidence of the Malaysian governmentâ€™s unbridled determination to tackle the scourge of corruption.
By hosting the ACA Index workshop, the MACC has proven to the public that it is determined to eradicate corruption, but ultimately, the agencies to fight the menace of corruption remain the ACAs and the leaders of the country. The public, too, has to support the relevant organisations to fight corruption. People who are not part of the solution become part of the problem, and hence the choice to stay silent, impassive or neutral simply does not exist anymore.
Plipat believes that in order to gain public support, relevant organisations should be more transparent. Governments need to acknowledge the publicâ€™s right to information. Freedom of information is a crucial component in any national system to ensure integrity, transparency and accountability, he said.
Since corruption is a borderless crime, ACAs should be authorised to carry out cross-country investigations to apprehend the corrupt and recover their ill-gotten gains. To achieve this, Plipat suggested expanding existing bilateral agreements to multilateral and sub-regional levels to eventually include all the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). -- BERNAMA
AI PR INE