DECEMBER 9 marked the International Anti-Corruption Day in commemorating the declaration of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
The day was also observed to celebrate the considerable achievement of member states with regard to the first international law to fight against corruption. Since the adoption of the UNCAC as a first universal anti-corruption law, 173 countries including Brunei Darussalam have become parties to the convention. The objective of commemorating International Anti-Corruption Day is to raise awareness on corruption among the world community.
This year, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced the theme for the International Anti-Corruption Day 2014 as ‘Break the Corruption Chain’. The message of this theme advocated countries to recover what was lost through corrupt practices. The government and civil society organisations, the private sector and the media, the general public, including the youth play a pivotal role in fighting corruption and as such should take a stand to “break the corruption chain”.
In the article issued by the UNODC and UNDP in commenting the International Anti-Corruption Day 2014, it was stated that corruption can lead to less prosperity and less respect for rights. In most of the countries where corruption is rife, signs of human rights violation, market distortions, erosion in quality of life, organised crime, terrorism anthreats to human security are also common.
BREAK THE CORRUPTION CHAIN
Corruption is the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world. According to UNODC, every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than five per cent of the global GDP. In addition, UNDP stated that funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance. That corruption does not just steal money from where it is needed the most, it leads to weak governance as well, which in turn can fuel organised criminal networks and promote transnational crimes such as human trafficking, arms and migrant smuggling and counterfeiting. As such corruption affects everyone and stifles economic as well as social development and contributes to governmental instability.
Therefore, how do we break the corruption chain? It is crucial to recognise that preventing and combating corruption require a comprehensive approach that involves the importance of accountability and transparency as well as participation of various segments of society. The government, private sectors, civil society organisations, the media and general public have to work together to curb corruption. The relevant stakeholders are urged to unite in the efforts in combating and preventing corruption.
UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION
UNCAC is a legally binding international anti-corruption instrument that provides a unique opportunity to mount a global response to the global problem. The UNCAC was first adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2003 in Merida, Mexico. It is the first global framework to harmonise anti-corruption efforts worldwide. The convention entered into force in December 2005. As of November 2014, 173 countries have become parties to the UNCAC.
The convention is an extraordinary agreement for not only its global reach but also for its extensive and detailed provisions. The UNCAC embodies a comprehensive approach to corruption. One of the provisions under the convention stress the importance that member states establish an independent anti-corruption body to implement punitive and preventive measures in combating corruption.
With the adoption of the UNCAC in 2003, a Conference of the State Parties (COSP) to the convention was set up with the objective to monitor progress of member states and review of compliance of implementation of actions required under the convention. Annual conferences are held at the United Nations Office in Vienna and related international meetings to ensure that state parties make progress in the implementation of legal and policy measures in adherence to the requirement of the convention. These include the fostering of regional and international cooperation among anti-corruption agencies in accommodating assistance to each other in areas of investigation, prosecution, mutual legal assistance and recovery of proceeds of corruption. The assistance also extends to cooperation in prevention, capacity building, and public education to reach out to society in raising awareness against corruption.
ESTABLISHMENT OF ACB IN BRUNEI
The ACB was established on February 1, 1982. This made the Bureau the 4th oldest anti-corruption agency in the Asia-Pacific region after Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, Singapore (1952), Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission, Malaysia (1967), and Independent Commission against Commission (ICAC), Hong Kong (1974). This is a testament of the farsightedness of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in advancing the course to enhance integrity of the public service, and to put in place measures for checks and balance in the conduct of public officials and also conduct of businesses in all sectors with the aim of ensuring good and ethical governance.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam announced at the opening of the State Legislative Council on December 12, 1981 that the formation of an agency that will be tasked to uphold the integrity of the public service and to hold accountable persons strayed in corruption to justice. His Majesty’s titah stated, “I strongly emphasise the need to uphold integrity and trust based on the teachings of Islam, and I in the strongest term prohibit any form of corruption. Insya Allah, I will take firm actions to prevent any form of corruption among officers in my government.”
Following the announcement, an Emergency Prevention of Corruption Order had entered into force on January 1, 1982. This was followed with the establishment of an anti-corruption agency in Brunei Darussalam on February 1, 1982.
The Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has frequently stressed the importance of integrity and prevention of corruption and this can be recalled in a number of His Majesty’s titahs. In His Majesty’s titah marking the official opening ceremony of Anti-Corruption Bureau Office on May 12, 1992, His Majesty stated, “As a nation which is well esteemed and having a high moral standard, Brunei Darussalam should retain its ingrained sense of awareness in combating corruption even to its roots. We should not be complacent in carrying out preventive measures in whatever forms, especially through the existing legal process”.
In addition, His Majesty in his titah for New Year 2010 stated, “Integrity should be the cornerstone of public services. Without it, any country can collapse, or at best lose its will (ability) to develop.”
ACB & CORRUPTION COMBAT
The very foundation of the objective of the Prevention of Corruption Act implemented by the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is to root out corruption. Hence the law provides authority for the Anti-Corruption Bureau to investigate corruption in all sectors.
Since its establishment in 1982, 2,532 cases have been investigated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau, ranging from offences of corruption such as giving and receiving of bribery, criminal breach of trust, submitting false financial claims to cheating and sexual gratification. Out of this, actions were taken against 555 individuals and 346 individuals were charged in the courts. Of this, 239 individuals have been convicted by the courts and sentenced with imprisonment and fines.
In addition to the total convictions mentioned, 209 individuals involving public servants, as a result of investigation by the Bureau have been reprimanded with administrative punitive action for various offences. The action taken included dismissal, suspension with half or no pay, demotion, sanction of financial incentives such as annual bonus, and demerits to their performance appraisal. The misconducts committed by the public servants involve the use of their position for personal gain, conflict of interest for showing favour or disfavour in their official dealings as public servant.
The endeavour of combating corruption has to be a whole-of–government effort involving the improvement of administrative processes within the public sector as well as improvement of corporate governance standard within the private sector. Both the public and private sectors have key roles to play, particularly in providing a comprehensive, systematic and consistent method in combating corruption such as devising an internal risk assessment method in preventing corruption.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau in commemorating the International Day against Corruption 2014, organised a Friday Sermon Presentation Competition and Friday Sermon Text Writing Competition for the youth nationwide in Conjunction with the International Anti-Corruption Day yesterday.
In addition, in celebrating the International Anti-Corruption Day this year, the bureau also organised a joint community awareness programme, ‘Program Berbalas Pantun Anti-Rasuah’ in association with Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which was aired on National FM, Radio Televisyen Brunei yesterday at 11.15am.
The objective of these programmes was to increase awareness on corruption and to promote awareness on ethical values as a foundation of integrity in oneself by inculcation of good ethical and moral values. This is the educational approach in spreading the message of good values in order to build a youth and community with integrity. The programmes act as a reminder that corruption is a scourge that can be eradicated and that a collective action is needed to prevent and combat corruption with the objective to create an environment free of corruption in Brunei Darussalam. (Courtesy of Anti-Corruption Bureau)