15 Nov 2010

'MACC shouldn't have prosecutory powers'

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) - or any graft-busting agency for the matter - should not have prosecutory powers, according to renowned anti-corruption consultant Bertrand de Speville. He explained that this is in order to uphold the criminal justice system.“I believe that in fighting corruption we don't lose sight of the basic principles of criminal justice and those functions, say the process of investigating, prosecuting and trying and sentencing, should be kept distinct,” he said in Kuala Lumpur today.

This was after his book 'Overcoming Corruption: The Essentials', published for the first time in Asia, was launched this morning. “The investigators investigate and the prosecutors decide whether or not to prosecute and the judges try and sentence. It is, I think, very important for these three function to be kept separate,” he said.

Also present were MACC chief Abu Kassim Mohamed, Senator Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim who chairs the Research for Social Advancement (REFSA) and Bukit Bendera DAP MP Liew Ching Tong who is the executive director of REFSA.

De Speville said he is aware of public concerns about the effectiveness of prosecution of corruption cases.

“Indeed it's alleged that there may be corruption amongst them, (but) that is a matter to be addressed as a corruption problem,” he said.

“If it's alleged that an investigator is corrupt, that allegation must and should be investigated the normal way with a view to prosecuting that individual.”

He said that it is crucial for MACC to have an investigation policy which stresses that it will look into every complaint brought to it.

“MACC should not initiate its own investigations and the reason is because when it initiates on its own accord, it will quickly lead the community to believe by the press itself that the MACC is picking and choosing what to investigate and what not to investigate.

“It (may be) picking to investigate certain people for the wrong reasons - for political reasons or corruption reasons - and at that point, public trust will disappear completely.”

His views run contrary to the popular call to give the MACC the authority to prosecute alleged offenders.

Parallel need

De Speville who was commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption of Hong Kong (ICAC) in 1997, said he wrote the book to “simplify, clarify and rationalise the fight against corruption” by governments.

“It's a fight that is too often infused with the notion of good governance.”

The ICAC, set up in 1996, is considered a successful model in cleaning up corruption in many government departments through law enforcement, prevention and community education.

Speville noted that the ICAC has the full support of the public, and that good governance and combating corruption should be undertaken in a parallel manner.

“If you run that two together, if you speak of them in the same breath, if you believe corruption can be cured simply by governance reform, then I'm afraid the result is disappointing as we seen.

“The reason I believe is simple. Any government's reform that is attempted is promptly undermined by the pre-existing corruption.”

De Speville also commented on public expectations that policy makers should know how to combat corruption.

“We are unrealistic if we expect senior members of the government to know how to tackle corruption. They may know a little here and there but we are in fairy land if we expect them to know all about anti-corruption (measures).

“That's why the book is so short, only a 100-odd pages... I hope it will not deter them or maybe their advisors may pick it and flip through it for pointers.”

Abu Kassim later told reporters that Speville's book is the “best reference.”

Asked if the MACC may consider hiring Speville as a consultant, he said: “From time to time, I can communicate with him. I'm not sure of consultancy work as such, but the book itself (provides) vast knowledge. So (it is a) matter (of) reading and understanding what we can do."
Source : http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/148246

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