IT’S very depressing and no less tragic that two of the most viralled news have to do with something that’s well within our control.
The damning expose of the existence of a well-organised cartel involved in faking halal certification of frozen meat products that also came from diseased cows has shaken our nation to the core as something that strikes at the very heart of the fundamentals of religion and religious sensibilities as well as food safety and security for which there should be no compromise at all, it goes without saying.
The fact that this has been taking place for forty years already and that the National Audit Department never uncovered it goes on to show how deeply-rooted, entrenched and institutionalised corruption has become in our nation.
And then we read about what could well have been a near-miss and harrowing experience for our Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin who fell off his bike because it hit on a pothole last Sunday (Dec 27).
Needless to say, lives have been lost as a result of unrepaired or unpatched potholes that “dot” our roads all over the country as a common sight and endemic experience for so many of us as drivers and motorcyclists and of course cyclists.
What a (shameful and disgraceful) way to end the year, so to speak.
And we’re supposed to have achieved a developed nation status by now, at least originally as envisaged by Vision 2020. Even if never mind that as the timetable has been postponed to 2030 (under the Shared Prosperity Vision) or 2050 (under previous Prime Minister Najib Razak’s National Transformation Plan), can we go on accepting such fiascos and shambles which can affect and cost lives and shatter our sense of well-being?
The shocking revelation that a well-oiled syndicate had been running a scam of such systemic and extensive proportion right under the very noses of the authorities (of at least four to boot!) doesn’t inspire confidence that the nation can move forward and upward towards fulfilling our articulated aspirations and ambitions.
It’s necessary that with the closing of the year and turning of a new page in 2021, we take stock and re-evaluate our way of monitoring things and ensure that such mistakes are never repeated again and truly become a thing of the past.
Towards that end, there should be:
For frontliners as part of the “early warning system” and “eyes & ears” of the government across the ministries – to report back the observations and findings for corrective and remedial action to be undertaken. As highlighted in an EMIR Research policy article entitled, “Tackling youth unemployment and underemployment through ‘Jobs Guarantee’”, this is also a way to address youth and graduate unemployment and underemployment.
In view of the endemic problem of potholes in the country, the Ministry of Works particularly in the form of the Public Works Department (PWD) should be beefed up with frontline officers to continuously check on the conditions of streets, roads and highways, bridges and the broader network of land connectivity (federal and state) and report back the observations and findings. Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) officers frequently go undercover to enforce laws on littering and prohibition of smoking in specified or designated zones and continuously promote (strict) compliance.
As for the meat cartel scandal, some of the measures to effectively address and tackle the weaknesses in the supply chain management system is to have the private sector roped in to counter-check and counter-balance the role of enforcement agencies. Audit firms such as Ernst & Young (EY), KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) should be enlisted in the strategic thrust to promote integrity in government agencies and processes which should also extend to overseas ventures/sites too.
Instead of spending millions of taxpayers’ money on consultants for wasteful branding campaigns and projects, as for example, the focus should therefore be re-oriented towards audit trails, forensic and systems analyses, etc. that will improve and strengthen procedures, processes and practices.
In addition, to the audit firms, greater strategic collaboration with information technology (IT) and cybersecurity firms should also be enhanced. In this regard, Strategy 5 on “Institutionalising Credibility of Law Enforcement Agencies” under the National Anti-Corruption Plan (2019-2023), particularly Strategic Objective 5.2: “High-Priority Technology Needs for Law Enforcement” should be accelerated, intensified and extended beyond merely the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) but also include the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMCD) which comes under the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and others.
As highlighted in another EMIR Research policy article on “Halal meat scandal – blockchain technology to the rescue?” by Jamari Mohtar, (the underlying) blockchain technology is critical to promoting efficient and effective monitoring and supervision of entire supply chain process, based on data provenance, from “farm to table”.
To quote Jamari Mohtar in the article, “It is high time Mafi [Ministry of Agriculture & Food Industry] adopts this system in the issuance of its AP for exporters to bring in imported halal meat into the country and rope in other government agencies such as the [RMCD], the port police, the Ministry of Domestic Trade & Consumer Affairs, and Jakim [Department of Islamic Development] to be part of the (digital and blockchain) network …”.
Hopefully, the government will – under the 6th and final phase of our national recovery agenda of “Reform” – have that political will to deploy all means at its disposal to clamp down hard on errant officials and officers alongside sending out a strong and unmistakably loud and clear message that corruption and inefficiency that can result in loss of lives and livelihoods will not be tolerated or turned a blind eye (which by the way is also the wrong way to show empathy).
Let 2021 be a new beginning and fresh start for the administrative systems and institutions to be reformed, reinforced and reshaped to be more resilient; and finally, to prevent the criminality, mishaps, leakages, wastages. – Dec 30, 2020
By : Jason Loh Seong Wei (Head of Social, Law & Human Rights at EMIR Research) – FOCUS MALAYSIA