Watch out! Section 17A of MACC Act is in force

The Act is even more timely at a time when more politically connected individuals start their reign at many GLCs

pic by BERNAMA

CORRUPTION destroys nations, tramples economies, cripples societies, robs the poor and enriches few.

It demeans all that is good and embodies all that is evil. It is anti-religious, anti-cultural and anti-national. Corruption is all but a chalice of pure evil.

But this criminal act persists in all countries and societies. Many justify their act through some insanely righteous but unpalatable and twisted greater good.

Even the people of gods have many times fallen to the seduction, at times comparing the worldly rewards to those accorded to prophets of the past.

That will somehow change. Effective today, Section 17A of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) (Amendment) Act 2018 will come into force.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced the enforcement of the Act, which was gazetted on May 4, 2018, despite efforts to put the law on the back burner.

The Act states that organisations are liable and can be found guilty if a person associated with it corruptly gives, offers or promises any gratification to any person with an intent to obtain or retain business or a business advantage for the said commercial organisation.

In a nutshell, this means organisations and companies whom these individuals work for will be held accountable for not preventing the corrupt acts.

The PMO said the enforcement will encourage commercial organisations to implement measures to adhere to the law and ensure the business is not involved in corrupt activities for their benefit.

Under the amended Act, the director, controller, officer, partner or manager is personally liable for the graft-related offence if the commercial organisation is found liable.

The burden of innocence now lies with the companies. The directors or senior management must prove that the offence was committed without his or her consent and all necessary steps have been taken to prevent it from happening.

The enforcement of the law is timely at a period when Malaysia tops the degrading charts of corporate corruption. 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) has been the global eye-opener of how widespread, deep-rooted and divisive corrupt practices are in the country. It is and still remains the largest corporate larceny in the world.

1MDB is the mothership, but other government-linked agencies and corporate bodies have also been linked to similar misdemeanours.

Interestingly, many senior management or directors who “directly collaborated” in the siphoning of billions escaped charges.

Many claimed ignorance. Board members trained the gun barrel on “powerful individuals”. Managers were executioners. Criminals escaped punishments. Idiocy is not a crime, but corruption is. With the enforcement of Section 17A, the board and senior management will think twice in awarding tenders and projects to favourable or politically connected parties.

Ballooned corporate deals to enrich selected parties will welcome scrutiny. Corporate governance will supersede personal greed. Fear of imprisonment and hefty fines outweigh material gratification.

And the implementation of the Act is even more timely at a time when more politically connected individuals start their reign at many government-linked entities (GLCs). These GLCs are no longer the ark of gold.

A law is as good as its implementation, like how an oven does not make the cake. It is the baker/chef. And the challenge is now for the MACC to implement the Act and end the plague.

Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the editor-in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve.