Another annual admonition by Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR
The armoury of the law is adequate for the task only if we employ the weapons available.
THE Auditor-General’s 2012 Report is conscientious, commendable and courageous. It contains the usual number of shocking findings of extravagance, financial negligence, corruption and dereliction of duty.
It is no consolation that politicians and bureaucrats around the world, including Europe and the United States, resort to similar malfeasance and breach of trust. The difference is that if they are caught, they are punished.
We, on the other hand, tend to be forgiving. Panels and committees are routinely appointed to investigate the Auditor-General’s annual admonitions. However, penal and administrative measures to punish the wrongdoers and remedy the wrongs are rare.
Plethora of laws: This is not because the law is lacking. The legal system contains enough institutions, laws and procedures to enforce financial prudence and to punish corruption and waste. The problem is poor enforcement of the rules. The laws are as good as the people who administer them. In relation to financial prudence, the following constitutional and legal institutions already exist in our legal system:
> The Federal Constitution establishes the office of the Auditor-General under Article 105.
> In addition to this constitutional Article, there are provisions on financial accountability in the Audit Act 1957 and the Local Government Act 1976.
> The Dewan Rakyat has a Public Accounts Committee on which the Auditor-General sits as an ex-officio member.
> The Statutory Bodies (Discipline & Surcharge) Act 2000 [Act 605] permits imposition of a “surcharge” on financially irresponsible employees of statutory bodies. A similar law exists for government servants.
> Act 605 permits errant public servants to be subjected to disciplinary proceedings, to be retired compulsorily, or be terminated in the public interest. Similar provisions apply to public servants.
> The Anti-Corruption Act 1997 arms the anti-corruption agency with extensive powers to investigate any corrupt practice or abuse of power.
> The Whistleblowers Protection Act 2010 gives some anonymity and protection to those who alert their superiors on wrongdoing in public office.