KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — Malaysia could have been far more progressive in the last 20 years with potential to compete with technologically-advanced Japan, had it not been forced to tackle numerous corruption problems, a forensic accountant said today.
Prabhat Kumar, who is also the chairman of the Malaysian chapter of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, said that he also found Malaysians to be a pragmatic community when it comes to business and innovation, and hold great potential in developing the country’s economy.
“I am not Malaysian, but I am in Malaysia for 30 years. This is a beautiful country. In terms of resources, it’s one of the richest, in the whole region,” he said in the Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum 2019 at the Istana Hotel here.
“But corruption has not allowed it to achieve the level it should have achieved in the last 20 years. It has pushed it back. The progress and development has really been dwarfed. It has not achieved that level of success which it should have achieved, and I feel personally, part of the responsibility or the majority [factors] has played a role for this corruption also.
“If the society was freed from corruption, I think this would have been the most prosperous nation,” he said, adding that he viewed Malaysia as a leading and promising economy in Asia.
“In 1994,1995, it was booming. In 1996, 1997, a little bit of economic turmoil came, but still the country was progressing very fast. Lots of palm oil mills were established, a lot of upstream expansion was going on, but today we are not that affluent.
“It has the potential to be parallel with Japan I tell you. My personal opinion,” he told Malay Mail later, at the sidelines of the event.
During the forum, he also urged Malaysia to do better in terms of formulating policies, to better protect whistleblowers.
He lamented that at present, there are no safeguards to protect the identities of those who expose corrupt activities, leading to more fear among those who intend to alert authorities.
Prabhat said that he has personally witnessed cases where some whistleblowers here were left high and dry, even after they had helped the authorities.
“I have seen three, four of such cases and they really burnt their fingers. They really suffered, just because they wanted to raise the issue, because their immediate superior was doing nonsense and [the whistleblower] was well aware of that, but there was no proper room for him.
“Because the thing is, the moment you disclose to agencies, the first thing, they will reveal your name. Gone. The whole thing’s gone. The whole thing’s become useless,” he added.
He then mentioned two cases in which he was involved in the investigating process, whereby a whistleblower in one of the cases had exposed a financial misappropriation activity involving hundreds of millions of ringgit, only to be sacked later and left in dire straits.
“If a person has raised the alarm, in my opinion he should be given at least some assurance that; Okay, we are not going to take any action against you, even if we suppose you are involved in other cases. Help us to be part of the process to uncover this whole mess, rather than be our witness, main witness and so forth,” he added.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who leaks confidential information about organisational abuse is a whistleblower, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) chief, Latheefa Koya said last month.
In a candid session with the media on August 6, she said there are specific definitions on whistleblowing, and who qualifies for immunity and protection under the law.
She also said the commission has found some legal loopholes in the existing Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 and that she will be presenting her recommendations to lawmakers to plug them up.
Noting the public’s confusion about the term “whistleblower”, Latheefa explained that the MACC has three categories for individuals who approach the commission with information on corruption claims: informant, complainant or person who is affected, and finally, the whistleblower.
She added that the MACC has to tread carefully in deciding which category the person with information falls into, as it has to balance providing protection for the whistleblower as a potential witness if the case goes to court, and the effectiveness of the complaint.
However, she gave an assurance that anyone seeking the MACC’s protection will receive it if their cases were legitimate.
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