TheSun says - For best results, make ACA independent
March 2 - The allegations against Anti-Corruption Agency director-general Datuk Zulkipli Mat Noor that include physical abuse and graft have put the nation's top graft-buster under a cloud. Given the serious nature of the allegations, and the importance of his position in ensuring the integrity of national institutions, it is vital that the investigations are thorough and that their outcomes are discussed in the public domain.
There are several principles of public accountability that need to be re-affirmed in connection with such cases.
Firstly, the culture of integrity cannot be said to be established in the country until persons in public office, including senior government leaders and top officials, submit to an inquiry process that is verifiably independent and accountable.
For the public interest to be satisfied, the findings of the police investigations should be released to a representative institution such as the parliamentary select committee on integrity and reported to the people.
Currently, as the public is not privy to the findings of investigations, the Attorney-General's Chambers bears the burden of ensuring that the public interest is served by the action that it recommends. Unfortunately, this does not live up to the gold standard of public accountability, which hinges on transparency and accountability.
This is an anomaly in the campaign for national integrity that is a cornerstone of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration.
Secondly, the independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency is an indispensible condition for the preservation of integrity in public affairs. The fight against abuse of power, corruption and mismanagement of public funds cannot progress effectively unless the principle of separation of powers is given a central position both in the agency's charter and in practice.
A third principle in this connection, is that the selection of the ACA head should be subject to vetting by a non-partisan representative body, such as the parliamentary select committee on integrity. Such a measure would help to ensure that the individual who leads the nation in its fight against graft would at least have no skeletons in the cupboard.
A culture of integrity will only be nurtured after years of efforts on multiple fronts, and we must not be discouraged by the challenges that we face in the meantime. But we will only improve if we are sincere about making a change and if we do not harbour any illusions about our present situation. sun2surf