AIRASIA Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun have stepped aside from their executive roles for at least two months, even as the authorities investigate allegations that Airbus paid a bribe of US$50 million to win plane orders from the company.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission took prompt action to start its own investigation. The most important thing is to get full cooperation from the United Kingdom authorities and to record statements from witnesses overseas.
The MACC Act 2009 empowers the commission to investigate any allegation of corruption against any Malaysian citizen or permanent resident outside the country. The Attorney-General’s Chambers has the power to charge individuals who commit acts of corruption overseas.
Under the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) practised in the UK (and also in Singapore), a corporation may have a charge deferred, on condition it agrees to pay a financial penalty and abide by several conditions, including supervision of its practices for a period of time.
Under DPA, Airbus is to pay a fine amounting to €991 million over allegations that it had used external consultants to bribe customers into buying its civilian and military aircraft.
Section 17A of the MACC Act 2009, which will come into force on June 1, 2020, imputes corporate liability to commercial organisations for failure to have adequate procedures to prevent corruption.
Most of us would regard the public service as the most corrupt sector. From 2014 to 2018, the MACC nabbed 782 individuals.
The number of arrests in 2019 was 294. The MACC also stated that corruption in the commercial and business sector was becoming more alarming.
The largely hidden truth is that banks play an integral role in enabling corrupt practices.
1Malaysia Development Bhd is a case in point. Sabah’s RM115 million “Watergate scandal” speaks volumes aboutthe urgent need to have a strong legal mechanism to deal with corruption in the private sector.
Collusive corruption, where officials from the public sector “join hands” with the private sector, is greatly present in today’s business environment, particularly in procurement, construction and development.
In KPMG’s 2013 Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Survey, 90 per cent of respondents said bribery and corruption were the biggest problem for businesses in Malaysia. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2018 (Malaysian report), the number of economic crimes experienced by respondents rose significantly.
The 2018 Business Integrity Country Agenda assessment conducted by Transparency International Malaysia found that many companies had failed to implement anti-corruption systems.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, in its Report to Nations 2018, stated that any company that did not practise an anti-corruption culture and integrity may suffer a drop in profit of up to five per cent.
Evidently, combating corruption in the private sector is equally as important as tackling it in the public sector. Any action needs to focus on both sectors. In EY Global Fraud Survey 2016, 83 per cent of respondents viewed enforcement against management as an effective deterrent corruption.
Practising a culture of integrity can create a more favourable working environment. Companies must raise the awareness of employees, customers and vendors about the importance of anti-corruption and integrity practices. Identify the problem areas and loopholes for corrupt practices, and find solutions.
A company’s culture is dictated by core values, such as honesty and integrity, starting from the top.
Companies should focus on business ethics as these make them stronger, more successful and able to attract and retain good employees. They must also portrayapositive brand image, engaging potential or existing customers and give the opportunity to appoint the right business partners and vendors. Without this, any organisation is designed to fail.
The writer holds a professional chair in crime and criminology, Institute of Crime & Criminology, HELP University and is former immediate Transparency International Malaysia president.