Happy International Workers’ Day or Labour Day! International Labour Day is a celebration of the economic and social achievements of workers. Labour Day is celebrated every year across the world on 1st May to spread awareness about the rights and opportunities of every Labour which they should get for their welfare and betterment. The theme of International Labour Day 2019 is “Uniting Workers for Social and Economic Advancement” while our Malaysian Labour Day 2019 is “National Aspiration Trusted Workers.” Strangely, the United States of America celebrates her Labour Day on the first Monday of September.
Last month, I am most honoured to be invited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Project team based in Bangkok to be an Advisor to their Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) on Promoting Fair Business Initiative ASEAN (2018-2021). This multi-year Regional Project is to promote fair, transparent and predictable business environments by working with both governments and the private sector, with particular focus on Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. This UNDP PSAG project will help develop transparent systems in both public and private sectors, champion responsible business practices, as well as strengthening the rule of law and anti-corruption mechanisms in support of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No: 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. There are 17 Goals and 169 targets under Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. SDG Goal No: 16 is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and to provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. SDG Goal No: 16 and its target on reducing bribery, strengthen institutions and accessing information are not only valuable aspirations in their own right but they are also vital conditions for the achievement of all the SDG 17 goals and the broader development agenda.
This UNDP PSAG is made up of influential experts in their industries, coming from the private sector, investment community, think tanks and government. These experts have been identified through a thorough mapping of expertise – across organizations and companies in ASEAN and beyond. The members will not be required to serve as representatives of their organization, but rather in their personal capacity, as independent experts. Each of the members have been carefully identified and invited to provide their core area of expertise and guide the work of UNDP on business integrity and responsible business conduct as an enabler to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), across the ASEAN region. The PSAG will meet at planned interval to discuss topical issues and provide strategic guidance to the regional project by drawing on their experience across industries, as well as by leveraging their extensive network in order to promote the private sector’s contribution to peaceful, just and inclusive societies for all. The meetings will be held face-to-face or in a virtual setting depending on the availability of its members. As an Advisor, I will be expected to provide my expertise and insights on how to engage the private sector more effectively in the regional activities of the project, as well as guide the narrative and conceptualization of the innovative approaches proposed as part of the discussion with other stakeholders. I do most solemnly and sincerely vowed that I will do my best and my duty as a good citizen should.
On top of that, I am also grateful to Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, Mr. Anga Timilsina, UNDP Anti-corruption Programme Advisor, and Mr. Patrick van Weerelt, Head of Office of the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development for giving me the opportunity and privileges to attend a 5-week online course entitled, “Anti-Corruption in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” running from April 23 – May 24, 2019. Each week course includes theoretical modules, tools, case studies and activities to enhance our skills and knowledge. There is a one-hour webinar session each week and at the end of each week, I still have to complete a short quiz to test my knowledge on what I have learnt. The first week, itself, is already gruelling and challenging but that’s what I need most – a hands-on experience with strategies, tools, and resources that can help me to accelerate our country’s progress towards a transparent, accountable and sustainable future along the journey to tackling corruption and advancing sustainable development towards fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
It is most disturbing and frustrating to know that Road Transport Department a.k.a Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ) has been in the limelight for having 68 of its Penang JPJ officers and personnel arrested last month by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to assist in investigations into a protection racket for overloading lorries codenamed Ops Sarat. Two former Land Public Transport Commission officers and nine civilians were also arrested. The JPJ director-general announced that an internal task force, led by the department’s Integrity Unit, will be established to do a “gap analysis” to streamline the department’s work practices and procedures within the department to eliminate corruption. Last year on 13 September 2018, Transport Minister Anthony Loke announced that 12 Road Transport Department (JPJ) staff have been arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for their suspected involvement in the sale of some 14,000 ‘lesen terbang’ or illegal licence. These 12 officers included a deputy director, two assistant enforcement officer, two assistant enforcement chiefs, six enforcement assistants, and one administration assistant are from Perlis, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Sabah and Sarawak. Similarly, for ‘lesen terbang’, JPJ have had form a special committee to study the mechanism for driving licence applications. What’s new?
Would it be more atoning to know that JPJ is one of the 10 government agencies which have been awarded the ISO 37001 Anti-bribery Management System (ABMS) certification by local Certification Body in November 2017? JPJ is among the pioneers in Malaysia to implement an Anti-bribery Management System (ABMS) at their workplace. Would JPJ be able to sustain its effectiveness and efficiency in maintaining its ABMS while addressing any one of the 115 initiatives under our Malaysian National Anti-corruption Plan (2019-2023)? Moreover, JPJ signed a series of memorandum of understandings with MACC in an effort to combat corruption and abuse of power in 2000, 2010 and on May 15, 2017. These MOUs include the sharing of expertise in the areas of detection, information dissemination, consultancy, education and training as well as efforts to enhance integrity and strengthen the practice of pure value towards enhancing the capacity and capability of MACC officers and JPJs in combating corruption. Can JPJ do better than these to be a corruption-free agency? Institutions with weak systems of oversight are more prone to corruption and fail to perform efficiently. Institutions must establish checks and balances, self-discipline and build on governance, integrity, accountability and transparency which are indeed the essential ingredients for tackling corruption.