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Illegal Factory: MACC recommends improvements to MBSP

Discretionary Powers ProvideCorruption Opportunities

 By Nazli Rasyid Sulong

 On August 2017, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) exposed an illegal carbon filter-processing factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam, Penang that caused pollution to occur at that locality.

The factory was described as ‘invincible’ was operating for more than 10 years and has never been approved by the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) known now as Seberang Perai City Council (MBSP).

This gives rise to the question, who allowed and protected the illegal factory operations throughout that duration? That became a ‘burning issue’ when the existence and protection of the illegal factory was linked with politicians involvement.

However, all doubts were erased when MACC conducted a thorough inspection on the work procedures of MBSP. From the inspection, it was discovered that the issue was caused by lack of clear guidelines regarding the concept of judicious enforcement by that particular local authority (PBT).

At that time, MBSP practised the concept of delayed enforcement action against any factory operators, stalls, businesses or building owners thereby giving them time and opportunity to apply for approval.

The use of discretionary powers by MBSP Officers in making decisions caused various problems to arise. That not only open opportunities and leeway for corruption to occur but also abuse of power and this created a negative perception among the public in general.

In addition, from MACC’s probe it was discovered that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for enforcement on illegal construction as well inspection on business or entertainment premise licenses did not have a specific duration. MBSP’s Directorate of Enforcement and the Building Department was responsible for that and in conducting monitoring at the sites upon receiving reports or complaints.

Therefore, MACC suggested several recommendations for improvements to MBSP. Among them was to establish clear guidelines regarding the implementation of judicious enforcement policy as well as guidelines in using discretionary powers in deciding whether or not to adjourn further action.

MACC also suggested improving the enforcement SOP by fixing a timeline for work processes beginning from the given date of approval. The recommendation was well received and the implementation of the new SOP brought a positive impact to MBSP. The PBT was upgraded to City Council from Municipal Council on 16 September 2019.

This clearly showed that MACC’s Consultation efforts bore fruits in solving the illegal factory issue and the said building is no longer operating in that area after it was ordered to ceased operation.

 Zero Corruption

MBSP also used the new SOP as a benchmark for every officer to take enforcement action according to the set timeline.

MBSP admitted that the consultation and recommendation of MACC was very helpful in improving and plugging loopholes for any given work processes that are open to opportunities of corrupt activities. The recommendation by MACC was also utilized in curbing abuse of power to ensure that the people received transparent and clean services.

MBSP not only adhered by the recommendations that were suggested by MACC, but it has taken other proactive steps in cultivating integrity and corruption prevention among its work force. Among them is establishing the Integrity Unit under the Management and Services Department, implementing the MBSP Organisation Anti-Corruption Plan 2021-2025, initiating the Integrity Month on November every year and inking the PBT Work Force to Fight Bribe Givers Pledge on 3 December last year in conjunction with the International Anti-Corruption Day as well as implementing the Business Process Reengineering and Business Process Improvement on its high risk work processes that may succumb to corruption by eliminating unnecessary procedures to hasten the process.

At the same time, MBSP was awarded the ISO37001:2016 Anti-Bribery Management System (ABMS) from SIRIM Berhad and became the first government agency to receive the award. MBSP will also be audited yearly as well to ensure the system is implemented well.

Currently, MBSP provides more than 100 online services as it has enhanced its efforts to fight corruption.

MACC’s role in providing consultation and advisory services to MBSP became the backbone of the PBT in preventing corrupt offences in its work procedures. With this new spirit among its work force, surely the tainted memories in MBSP would not recur again.

 The writer is MACC Inspection andConsultation Division Director.

 ENDS

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