By C4 Center

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center), in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), today, mark this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD 2021) by drawing the public’s attention to the use of technology to fight widespread corruption in the country.

Themed ‘Using Technology to Turn the Tide Against Corruption’ and attended by close to 100 participants (virtually and on-site), the event was aimed at shedding light on the rise of corruption across economies, especially in Malaysia, amidst the emergency situation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and how technology can be used to counter the onslaught of corruption which is an enduring problem that the country faces.

Content of the talks included exploring new anti-corruption methods, tools and measures that can be implemented to improve the processes involved in procurement services to minimise leakages and malpractices.

In her welcome note, Cynthia Gabriel, C4 Center Founding Director said: “Today’s event is organised in conjunction with the International Anti-Corruption Day which is celebrated tomorrow, on the Dec.9, but this day needs to be given far more prominence in Malaysia than it receives.

“We are also here today on a very positive note, feeling energised after the Court of Appeal’s (CoA) decision and very much in-context with what we are talking about,” said Cynthia in reference to the upholding of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s conviction and sentence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case by the CoA this morning.

She attributed the success of corruption investigations to the due diligence of investigative journalists, the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the United States and several other law enforcement institutions around the world that uncovered multi-layered, multi-dimensional and complex corruption cases — particularly those concerning Malaysia.

“It was technology and tools that were actually utilised in a very intricate way that helped follow the money trail and assisted our local investigators including the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) to conduct (investigations into) such massive corruption cases,” she said.

Cynthia said the Court had given the country a very strong message and expressed that the decision boded well to coincide with the IACD 2021.

“So today, following the interesting Court decision, our spirits have been boosted to believe that kleptocrats — those corrupt offenders involved in serious corruption — really have no place in our society,” she emphasised.

Professor Edmund Terence Gomez, Chairman of the Board of C4 Center said: “We must understand the system that has been put in place by the people in government and in business which allows them to perpetuate corruption in a covert manner, that’s so difficult to detect.

“It is hard for NGOs to detect how this money flows when it has gone transnational. We cannot do this alone because money is flowing in and out of the country through more sophisticated fintech financial-typed technology,” Gomez explained, adding that stakeholders should pull together resources to dismantle the mechanisms that lead to corruption.

Speakers representing the UNODC (Francesco Checchi, Anti-Corruption Adviser); Open Contracting Partnership, OCP (Bernadine Fernz, Head of Infrastructure); Department of Standards Malaysia (Abdul Fattah Yatim, Chairman of Malaysia’s Standards Committee on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies); and EMIR Research (Datuk Wira Dr Hj Rais Hussin Hj Mohammed Ariff, President and Chief Executive Office) covered topics on the use of technology to combat corruption ranging from the role of data analytics for corruption and fraud prevention in Southeast Asia; open contracting infrastructure; blockchain technology to integrity-tech in the digital economy to fight corruption, respectively.

Participants attending the event comprised skilled individuals from the procurement sector including integrity and compliance professionals; financial and investment professionals; regulatory enforcement officers; as well as investigative journalists and key business and management decision-makers who can expect to apply their renewed understanding towards the anti-corruption framework to further their work in their respective fields for their organisations.

In the recent Auditor-General’s report (A-G Report) on the Federal Government’s financial statements and the 2020 Federal Ministries and Departments Compliance Audit, various problems surrounding federal ministries and departments with financial management’s non-compliance issues had been identified.

The report, tabled on October 28 at the Dewan Rakyat, found irregular payments, loss of public funds and wastage involving these ministries and departments which amounted to RM620.07 million last year, inevitably implying the presence of corruption in its various forms, within various stages of the procurement processes, thus urgently requiring the use of technology to arrest and resolve the ongoing issue.

In an effort to curb leakages and wastage stemming from the procurement sector, the C4 Center had called on the government to expedite the setting-up of the Independent Ombudsman Office and include the Misconduct in Public Office (MIPO) clause as a new provision under the MACC Act of 2009.

Corruption has largely been acknowledged as the primary enabler for transnational crimes, and the first ever United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Special Session on Corruption held in June this year affirmed the urgent need to fight this scourge by using technology to achieve this end.