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Transparency International says that corruption in the water sector is widespread because infrastructure projects are large, expensive and complex and provide opportunities for abuse in procurement and contracts.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) last year made a string of arrests and seized more than RM100 million in cash and assets obtained via unlawful means.  Former Sabah Water Department director Ag Mohd Tahir Ag Talib and his wife Fauziah Piut and former Sabah Water Department deputy director Lim Lam Peng have been charged with 37 counts of misappropriating infrastructure funds. Ag Mohd Tahir was charged with eight counts of possession of more than RM56.9 million in cash and in four bank accounts; two counts of possessing six luxury cars; and one count of possessing 86 watches of various brands.  The director and his wife remain in jail after failing to post bail.

It is the people whom the Water Department was intended to serve who suffer.  The Star provides the statistics.  At the national level, 95.5% of the Malaysia population has water coverage; 87.9% of Sabah’s population has treated water supply; only Kelantan has less (64%), although many households in Kelantan have access to alternative water sources.  Last year, Malaysia’s Non Revenue Water rate was 35.5%; Sabah’s rate was 55.1%; only Perlis was slightly worse, with 56.3%.

Perhaps as a result of depriving the population of their right to clean water, Malay rights group Perkasa has proposed that public officials convicted of corruption should receive mandatory life imprisonment, and suggested other punishments such as caning as well as raising corruption to the same level as drug trafficking offences.

Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management suggests a number of ways in which corruption can be reduced or prevented including increasing the penalties for corruption although they don’t specifically mention caning.  Those include:

  • Improvements to remuneration of employees/officials in the water sector because pay levels have fallen so low that employees need to supplement their income to feed their families; more performance based pay to incentivise delivery against objectives.
  • An end to monopolies and the promotion of competition in the public and private sectors.
  • Better awareness amongst and education of the public at large of the obligations on providers, and enabling citizens to be more actively involved in oversight.
  • Enhanced accountability, audit and transparency.

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