Enforcement alone not enough to fight corruption, says former Hong Kong ICAC commissioner

 |Jul 17, 2017
Bertrand de Speville (left), Tan Sri Michael Yeoh (centre) and Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim. – MO pic by Farah Harith.

KUALA LUMPUR: While enforcement is one means of battling corruption, two other elements; prevention as well as education and public support are equally as important.

A strong advocate in the fight against corruption, Bertrand de Speville said that in order to tackle corruption effectively, these three elements must work together in close coordination, stating that this is the role of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Former commissioner of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), de Speville, said these three elements are inter-linked and the success in any one of them enhances the other two.

“Now when they work together, you now have a powerful weapon against corruption. That’s the idea,” de Speville told Malaysia Outlook on the sidelines of a roundtable discussion on corruption organised by the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI) here, today.

De Speville who runs a consultancy firm that specialises in fighting public and private sector corruption, is a lawyer by profession and is the author of ‘Overcoming Corruption – The Essentials’.

Elaborating further on the three elements, de Speville said prevention means examining the systems and procedures by which we lead our lives.

“Particularly the systems and procedures in government, in the administration, in the public service,” he said, adding that it is important to eliminate the opportunity for corruption in all those systems and procedures.

For an employee who works in a system that offers opportunities to be dishonest, sooner or later, the employee might succumb to corrupt practises, he explained.

“Then sooner or later, because we are not saints, we will succumb to the temptation,” he said.

With regards to the third element of education and public support, de Speville said the fight against corruption cannot be won unless people understood why corruption is bad.

“We cannot win this unless people understand why corruption is bad and are prepared to help. The MACC cannot do it on its own. It must obviously have good information from members of the public,” he added.

When asked to comment on the spate of arrests by the MACC of late, de Speville expressed his hope that this is not done at the expense of the other two elements.

“When you tell me that many more people have been arrested, I hope that is not at the expense of the prevention and public education side.

“The world during the last century tried to deal with corruption simply by enforcement. The difficulty is if you don’t educate, don’t develop public support for what you’re trying to do, you will not succeed,” de Speville said.

Reiterating that all three elements are equally as important, de Speville reminded that if the focus is given strictly to enforcement, it will fail.

“That lesson was learnt in country after country during the last century. Now the United Nations’ (UN) Convention Against Corruption reflects these three elements,” he noted.

During his speech at the roundtable discussion, de Speville highlighted his algorithm for anti-corruption, of which he said consists of steps he had used in his career of battling corruption.

The algorithm is made up of seven steps, namely; political will, values set out in the law, national strategy, implementing the strategy, public support, resources and progress measurement.

“I believe an algorithm can be applied to tackling corruption. I now realise that actually I’ve been using an algorithm for fighting corruption for many years. A step by step process is exactly what I’ve been advocating,” he said.

Also present at the discussion were ASLI CEO Tan Sri Michael Yeoh and former special adviser to  former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Establishment of the UN Ethics Office Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim. – MO