Corporate Voice: Interview with Datuk Seri Azam Baki, Chief Commisioner of MACC

Interview Script for Cover Personality

YBHG Datuk Seri Azam Baki, The Chief Commissioner
of the Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC)

1. You have been in MACC since 1984, and now hold the esteemed position as Chief Commissioner of MACC. Please share with our readers the challenges, obstacles and constraints that you may have encountered, in your role as the Chief Commissioner of MACC. Kindly advise how you overcame them.

First of all, my sincere appreciation to MAICSA for inviting me on behalf of MACC to share my thoughts with readers of the Corporate Voice. It is my great honour to be part of your esteemed e-magazine in promoting good governance and best practices to be emulated by organizations.

When I first joined the agency on 24th December 1984, it was then known as the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). After that, ACA went through several changes and reforms, both structurally as well as constitutionally. Later in 2009, ACA went through a major transformational process with the passing of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, to better equip our organisation with various improvements in its structure, independence, mandated functions and relevant law enforcement power in order to endure future challenges.

With economic and sociocultural progress over the decades, the types of corruption offences in our country have evolved to those that are more complex and syndicated in nature. The modus operandi of perpetrators continue to change and is becoming more difficult to be discovered as they tend to shift to diverse techniques and tactics. The corrupt acts are concealed through various layering of records and documentation, whilst the conversion of the ill-gotten proceeds are made through various mediums, both tangible as well as intangible in nature, with the involvement of different level of proxies. Even the use of virtual assets such as cryptocurrency as a conduit for corruptions and money laundering activities has become an emerging threat.

These days, high profile corruption cases are often coupled with money laundering activities with perpetrators using various jurisdictions to cover the illegal acts. The transnational issues such as foreign witnesses and securing evidences abroad keep arising, thus impeding our investigation processes.

Other than managing the cases, it is also crucial for MACC to administer the public’s perception. We are not only exposed to issues and criticisms brought up in the mainstream media. MACC needs to reflect positive image in order to gain trust from the public. Trust us when we say MACC does not condone malpractice.

MACC is constantly finding ways to change the mind set of the public and genuinely believes that advantageous impacts can be achieved when the public and even government servants have better knowledge on integrity and transparency.

The drop in the scores for Malaysia’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is a cause for concern due to public perception. However, MACC will continue to scrutinise and study the proposal submitted by Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) with regards to our CPI’s performance.

With the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is undeniable that the pandemic has hampered our operations. Just like any other sectors in Malaysia, there are limitations in terms of work force and also assistance between offices. With the unprecedented business and financial disruption, MACC is concerned perpetrators will take advantage of the opportunities present during this new normal situation.

Being more than 36 years in MACC has made me mindful of all the shifts happening in our country today. I assure you that our focuses will remain to eradicate corrupt practices within our shores, educate the masses on the importance of reporting corrupt practices and abstain them from acts of corruption.

‘MACC is always observing and advancing!’

2. What do you consider to be your greatest career accomplishment or any innovation introduced, perhaps?

In my years with MACC, I found that eradicating corruption is not an easy job. Being involved in different levels of job specifications has enriched my experience on the changing modus operandi of the perpetrators coupled with the use of technology to hide the corrupt practices which they strategise constantly to be one-step ahead of us.

I am lucky to have good mentors and team members throughout my service at MACC, we are able to implement the elements of intelligence in our investigation approach.
The successful method we developed as an augmentation to the reactive investigation is called Intelligence Based Investigation (IBI) which had been embarked in the investigation of high profile and public interest cases.

I am also very glad to be part of the team that initiated the forfeiture of assets with the use of the Anti-Corruption Act 1997, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 and the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLATFPUAA). With the implementation of efficient intelligence and investigation technique, we managed to identify the assets from illegal activities, both domestic and international. MACC also collaborates with various international counterparts to overcome the barriers for the recovery of assets which involve multiple jurisdictions.

Another achievement of MACC is when we managed to create diversity of talent and knowledge within our officers to outsmart the perpetrators. Our officers are always equipped with the necessary training and resources to uncover the trails left behind by the perpetrators using sophisticated technologies and information system.

We even have our own forensic technology division as well as financial analysis division that comprise of officers with experiences in IT and accounting that are educationally and professionally certified by the local and international bodies.

I am also proud that we have our own prestigious academy, MACA, which is responsible in producing high quality and well trained officers. Recently, the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) has given the green light to MACA to work its way to be accredited as the Higher Education Provider Centre. This certification would enable MACA to offer and grant certificates according to the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF) which will further transform MACA to be on par with other public and private universities. Due to the continuous collaboration between MACA and the Nottingham Trent University (NTU), two of our programmes which we offered had obtained accreditation from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, United Kingdom (QAA, UK). This has since become the limelight of our effort in making MACA the best academic centre for anti-corruption institution in Malaysia.

For me, this success is for the entire MACC team.

3. We believe an organisation’s culture drives the right behaviour to achieve the right outcome. What is your management philosophy in driving changes and working with the younger generation?

I believe that self-discipline is crucial in determining a person’s judgement. Spear heading an organisation requires the person to be strong willed in embracing integrity and transparency as part of life. This instantly helps the person gearing his or her commitment and dedication towards positive outcome. A person with high self-discipline is not only able to carry out responsibilities with high integrity, but also control every action done in accordance with the rules and regulations.

MACC embraces the culture of respect and building trust towards each other. A positive working environment involves co - operation of every level of the organization, from high ranking officers to entry level officers. On that account, I always do my best to foster an optimistic setting in MACC as I believe that the stronger the bond between employees, the stronger the esprit de corp of an organization.

When working in a blended environment comprised of the old and young, a leader must be open to all opinions and ensure all the stakeholders are engaged when making decisions. Senior officers will carry out their tasks based on experiences they have gained, but younger generations tend to have fresh ideas that incorporates technology in their plan of actions. Thus, all of these good skills must be utilised and well-coordinated for the betterment of the organisation.

4. Can you share, with our young graduates and members, the kind of work ethics and character traits that you feel are fundamental in achieving success?

Accountability. One must be responsible for his own action and not blame others for the mistakes that occur. Also, when a problem arises, one must be able to think of other options rather than finding excuses for things he or she is responsible for. Based on this principle of accountability, I believe that everyone must be able to carry out their responsibility with full integrity and execute the tasks given efficiently until the goal and objectives are successfully accomplished.

Another key is teamwork. Reflecting on this, team spirit can exist with the combination of diverse set of skills, knowledge and talents when everyone is able to work together towards the common goal. Teamwork is also used to manage risks in which each person takes the responsibility seriously and deal with any challenges effectively. Thus, I believe that morale is demanded in every team in order to realise the envisioned goal.

The other trait is endeavour. As graduates, you ought to instil this character from now because for the future working environment, you will be required to dedicate and deliver high quality commitment that would take a toll on your personality if not managed properly and professionally.

5. A Company Secretary plays an important role in advising the board on corporate governance and compliance. What other roles would you expect them to assume in raising the standards of integrity and governance of companies? And what would your advice be to the Company Secretaries to assist them in enhancing their role as governance professionals?

A Company Secretary plays an important role in maintaining the corporate governance of an organization. In the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) 2019-2023 that was launched on 29th January 2019 by the government, corporate governance is one the six priority areas identified in the Plan. The Company Secretary as a person who is well versed with the Companies Act 2016 or any other applicable laws, has the responsibility to inform, educate, advice and alert the Board on the relevant rules, regulations and requirements that a company needs to comply with.

Other than that, the Company Secretary is one of the Reporting Institutions under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, for the sector of Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs). As a reporting institution, a Company Secretary is required by the law to undertake preventive measures to deter the organization from being used as a conduit for money laundering and terrorism financing activities.

Company Secretaries should also be well informed and updated, on any new or amendment to the laws and regulations. In particular, the Section 17A of the MACC Act 2009 that has been put into effect since 1st June 2020. The amended act is introduced and aimed as a preventive measure to ensure that a commercial organization is responsible for the actions of its own and of its employees. The organization can no longer hide behind an individual employee who becomes a scape goat for the benefit of the company. However, the risk can be mitigated if the commercial organization has implemented adequate measures.

Another new initiative introduced is the Beneficial Ownership of Legal Persons. Based on the Guideline for the Reporting Framework for Beneficial Ownership of Legal Persons, the duty of a Company Secretary is to properly keep and regularly maintain the register of members whereby the Secretary must ensure that the Beneficial Ownership information is entered and be responsible to lodge the Beneficial Ownership information to the Registrar in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act 2016.

6. What advice would you like to give to our MAICSA graduates who aspire to be leaders?

To all MAICSA graduates who are inspired to be leaders, I would advise you to be equipped with a variety of skills and qualities that comprise of communication, thinking empowerment and coaching to ensure that execution could be done commendably.

Constantly gain knowledge not just by reading but also from other resources in order to be more alert and responsive on every matter. With the advancement of technology, one must also not be left behind so that you are not confined in your comfort zone, but, instead progress effectively in your life as well as career.

When we are in the position to lead, we must carry out our responsibilities with the utmost honesty and integrity and never take advantage of our power and position for own benefit. Being free from corruption must be upheld and instilled in each and every one of us, and cultivated be from young.

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