We might be questioning or asking ourselves, once again, whether or not we have the strength, energy and enthusiasm or willpower to curb, combat and curtailing corruption. But at the very least, we are going to celebrate the United Nations International Anti-corruption Day on 09 December 2018 to raise awareness of corruption and of the role of UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in the fight against corruption. At the local front, Malaysian Anti-corruption Commission (MACC) HQ will be organizing a “Walkabout” on fighting against corruption at IOI City Mall, Putrajaya from 08:30 – 13:00 on that eventful day. Meanwhile in the North, Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Penang have come together to hold a fun run, “Go Green Run”, in conjunction with the International Anti-Corruption Day. The theme is ‘Bribery in despair, Dignity in Build’. Beside the run, MBPP plans to plant more than 100,000 Orange Jessamine trees for a greener Penang over the next five years and also to create a clean environment with clean people!
In conjunction with UN International Anti-corruption Day, this week, I will be at the 6th. Anti-Corruption Compliance Asia Pacific Summit 2018 in Hong Kong to share notes on the latest update on ISO 37001:2016 – Anti-Bribery Management System standard with delegates from world leading companies and anti-corruption enforcement agencies. This is the platform not only to discuss the latest anti-corruption compliance strategies and best practices but also to strengthen communications and learning about recent case studies and how to deal with compliance management from the different industry experts and specialists. But I am going to miss out the 2-day International Business Integrity Conference (IBIC) 2018 organized by Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in Jakarta, Indonesia. This Conference is expected to attract some 1,000 attendees.
For the first time in 61 years, the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s Finance Minister YB Lim Guan Eng tabled its first federal budget for the year 2019 on 2 November 2018 in the Parliament for 140 minutes. The Budget 2019 carries the theme “Credible Malaysia, Dynamic Economy, Prosperous Rakyat”. The three (3) focus areas are (1) implementing institutional reforms; (2) ensuring the socio-economic wellbeing of Malaysians and (3) fostering an entrepreneurial economy with 12 key strategies. While there are many figures and crunching numbers in millions to ponder but what impressed me greatly is under Strategy 1 : Strengthen Fiscal Administration is the introduction of a new Government Procurement Act to govern procurement processes so as to ensure transparency and competition, while punishing abuse of power, negligence and corruption. The principles of integrity, transparency, accountability, fairness and efficiency in all decision making of public procurement will minimise corruption risk and maximise the economic, financial, social, technological, environmental and political benefits of government machinery.
Today, there are not less than 62 countries in the world which have had established their own Government Procurement or Public Procurement laws. More often than not, these countries have considered the World Bank Procurement Guidelines and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Procurement of Goods, Construction and Services into their laws. Under the World Bank Procurement Guidelines, bidders are required to provide integrity assurances and to disclose any convictions or investigations relating to corruption violations. Additional safeguard is to have an Integrity Pact signed. While the UNCITRAL Model Law focuses on evaluation and modernised procurement laws and practices. Yet, there is another pluri-lateral General Procurement Agreement (GPA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which requires “transparency” of procurement process. Whatever is it, the efforts to prevent and fight corruption in the public procurement must be seen as the responsibility of both government and the bidders. It takes two to tango and both must come clean. Nothing less!
As mentioned in the previous Auditor-General Reports, there were growing number of outstanding cases of not only public projects where costs have escalated and possible abuse of public funds but also there are suspected criminal breach of trust, cheating or corruption cases being identified. Whether public funds have been spent prudently and the Government or Public Procurement Act make every Minister accountable for the failure to comply with finance regulations, management, high-priced procurement, ‘not value for money’ and unachieved targets. It must be the duty of each and every minister as the head of a ministry to ensure their own integrity and that of all others below them.
Nevertheless, it is also of paramount important that even before deliberating this Government or Public Procurement Bill in the Parliament next year, the Pakatan Harapan government must seek multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs) engagements and should not be over-ruled by ‘the government knows best’ mentality. There should be ample and enough time for various stakeholders to discuss and debate on the enhancement of public procurement. Malaysia should be able to produce an excellent Government or Public Procurement Act which encompasses all the best practices from these 62 countries. Even the Government of Timor-Leste has published a Decree Law sets out the procurement processes which must be carried out by government officers when purchasing goods, services or works on behalf of the Government of Timor-Leste. The Ministry of Finance, Timor-Leste has developed a series of guides outlining the process and required documentation and ten (10) steps in procurement process are (1) strategic procurement planning; (2) tender specification writing; (3) tender processes and tender documents; (4) tender bid evaluation; (5) post-tender negotiations; (6) establishing contracts; (7) managing contracts; (8) annual procurement report; (9) suppliers registry and (10) decentralization and accreditation. Pakatan Harapan government should also embark on its journey towards Open Government Partnership and to adopt the Open Data Policy for better governance, integrity, accountability and transparency.