Why the cuts on MACC in Budget?


Is anti-corruption no longer a high priority on Najib’s agenda?

Hafidz Baharom, The Heat Malaysia

While Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has highlighted various goodies for the civil service, it seems that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be looking at a tough time. The line item chapter detailing these cuts was spotted on the Ministry of Finance website.

Among the deductions listed include drastically lower budgeted spending on services and supplies (Code 20000) in corporate services, law and prosecution, investigation/surveillance, prevention, administration and professionalism, and even specific programmes including overseas trips.

The chapter shows a reduction in the most important anti-corruption agenda – investigations and surveillance – with cuts in supply and services spending of roughly RM4 million (80 per cent) and RM1 million (60 per cent) respectively.

Similarly, it seems that the Anti-Corruption Academy (MACA) will see its supplies expenses cut by one third. Administrative services, as well as forensic services, have also seen their budget halved.

Furthermore, it seems that the Commissioner’s Office also took a pay cut of roughly RM312,000.

Even record and information management saw a reduction of 82 per cent from last year from RM3.9 million to a mere RM721,500. Even community education spending was cut by 86 per cent.

And yet, it seems the government insists that the MACC continue its activities as per normal.

I do not actually mind the government promoting cost cutting initiatives, but to do so in the MACC supplies and services at this level of austerity seems rather vengeful. And thus, I believe the government needs to explain why supplies and services of those fighting corruption has been cut by such huge margins.

Is anti-corruption no longer a high priority on Najib’s agenda?

There is a continuing need to promote the anti-corruption movement in Malaysia, yet by the cuts highlighted for 2017, it seems that this government wishes for the commission to tone down their actions.

It is imperative that this issue be brought up in Parliament, especially in light of the corruption of the water sector in Sabah as well as the corruption in Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL). The MACC should have been given more funds as an encouragement in continuing their efforts, not be cut up to the point of obscurity.

And while I do not share Pakatan Harapan’s thoughts that corruption costs the government 20 percent or more in terms of leakages, we must admit that there is a huge problem when the head of a government water company can have cabinets full of cash in his office during a raid.

We must also admit that there is something truly wrong when a candidate for Kuala Lumpur mayor can suddenly accumulate some 55 condominium units, while those who sold it to him have yet to be brought to justice.

Or was the whole “punish the giver” concept in corruption totally blanked out due to corporate or political interests?

A lot of things should be on the agenda to continue keeping the pressure against corruption and corruptors – which includes granting them the independence to prosecute without the intervention of the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).

There is also a need for the government to explain this – in 2015 and even 2016, less than a quarter of the investigated cases (papers) made its way to court. Could we ask why?

Yes, we do need to cut unnecessary costs from the budget, which should include reducing pork barrels. However, we should not undermine the actions of those ensuring that government expenditure and income is not leaking out like a Syabas pipe in Selangor.

The MACC, Customs, the armed forces and even the police, should not be the victims of cost cutting because corruption, illicit trade, incursions and kidnappings, as well as a high crime rate – all of these affect national income and efficiency, directly and indirectly.

I have said this before and will say it again – spend more on these departments to give them the proper tools and encouragement to work. It serves no good for government institutions such as these to be maligned with cost cuts. In fact, such reductions will lead to failure that will in fact be the cause of why nations fail.