CORPORATE corruption is fast becoming an issue and needs to be addressed. The Attorney-General has announced that relevant acts of Parliament will be amended to deal with the problem in the immediate term, as cited in the findings of the KPMG Malaysia Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Survey 2013. According to the survey, bribes took the form of cash, entertainment and gifts, repectively, in terms of frequency. More importantly though, is the obvious implication that bribery is not alien to the private sector.
In recent weeks, much has been said about the need to combat corruption among civil servants. That the issue warrants attention is undeniable because of its often dangerous consequences, as in the destruction of Cameron Highlands, for example. However, to ignore the fact that others outside the public sector are involved is to fight a losing battle against a crime, when unchecked, spreads like cancer. Furthermore, anti-corruption legislation covering the private sector exists in other countries, such as Britain and the United States, which have consequences reaching beyond their borders. The A-G cites the 2011 Alcatel-Lucent case, where the French company was prosecuted by US authorities for bribing officials from several countries. The company lost the case and a fine of hundreds of million was imposed. The multi-territorial nature of such a legislation makes Malaysia’s need for one more urgent.
While a law that has a “vast territorial reach” incorporating the best practices found elsewhere is being promulgated, the country will resort to amendments of existing legislation, such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 and the Companies Act. The former could include a corporate liability provision, which will make companies responsible for the actions of their associates and employees. The latter, meanwhile, will be amended to include rules, regulations and procedures for business dealings. These interim measures, according to the A-G, are expected to be in place by early next year. To expect the private sector to police themselves and voluntarily desist from such activities is over-optimistic, a fact manifest in the slow uptake by businesses, civil society organisations and private sector professional bodies of the MACC Corporate Integrity Pledge. To further ensure a corruption-free environment, MACC has established an anti-graft training hub for Southeast Asia, where best practices are shared and a meeting of minds is facilitated in an endeavour to find solutions. Speaking at the Southeast Asia Parties Against Corruption (SEA-PAC) meeting recently, MACC’s chief commissioner mentions that the feasibility of positioning this 10-member coalition as an entity under Asean is being studied. In fostering efficiency and effectiveness, such an arrangement would make the resolution of inter-country corruption cases easier. But unfortunately, not every Asean member country has a portfolio dedicated to graft, good governance and integrity. Until such a time this happens, SEA-PAC is merely a no-action-talk-only meeting on corruption, where Asean officials share experiences and possible solutions.