Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stop Bribery Culture Before It Destroys Us

Headlines in the International Herald Tribune:- Report: Malaysia investigates if forestry officers took bribes to allow illegal logging.

The details:- Malaysia's Forestry Department was investigating whether its officers helped timber companies illegally cut down trees in eastern Pahang state, a newspaper reported Monday.

The department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is looking into 16 cases to determine whether officers took bribes to alter documents and logging maps so more forest could be cut down, the New Straits Times said.

Minister Azmi Khalid was quoted by the daily as admitting there were cases of forestry department officers receiving bribes in Malaysia, but the number was "very low." Neither the minister nor deputy minister could immediately be reached Monday. Other ministry officials contacted by The Associated Press declined to confirm the report.

Despite a 2005 government directive to states to limit the number of new logging concessions, Malaysia's primary forests are still being logged excessively, and officers assigned to protect the forests have often been accused of turning a blind eye to timber companies' illegal activities.

Deputy Minister S. Sothinathan was quoted by the Times as saying the investigation had started, and the ministry would submit a paper to the Cabinet soon. He did not say, however, whether the department was also investigating cases outside Pahang, the report said.

Last December, Forestry Department Director General Azhar Muda reportedly said that companies involved in illegal logging would be taken to court, and officers would be fired. "It is unforgivable for our officers to collaborate with illegal loggers. They will not be given a second chance," he said in the bulletin Timber Malaysia, according to the New Straits Times report.

Azhar and other forestry officials could not immediately be reached Monday. In Pahang, all forestry officials were out of the office.

***** This is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The bribe culture among staff of government departments is all-pervasive and extremely difficult to eradicate without political will. Now that public servants have been given generous pay hikes they should rein in the urge to take the easy path to wealth and succumb to the temptations of graft. Either that or spend time in prison, with no other option. The authorities have to make an example of some public servants including senior officers if the message is to get across strong and unmistakably clear. Of course the big question mark is whether the authorities have the political will to enforce even these basic rules. This is the price which we have to pay for maintaining a bloated civil service which apart from doing its legal duties also doubles up as a vote bank for the ruling party.
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1 Comments:

Blogger kittykat46 said...

There is a long and dishonourable history of illegal logging in Pahang state. Unfortunately many of the illegal loggers are close to members of the official establishment. Often they may have approval to do limited legal logging, and its only a minor step to extend this to areas which they don't have approval.
In addition to the element of personal gain among officials, there can also be considerable pressure exerted against any officer who is inclined to take action against the loggers.
These illegal loggers have a lot of influential allies.

"If you can't beat them, join them".

1:16 PM GMT+8  

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