Lately we have been inundated with news of investigations by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Council (MACC) of corruption in Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB) here.
A few days before the new year, the husband of a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IIB was charged with soliciting money from a contractor to build a boarding school in Iskandar. And a day before that a former vice-president of IIB pleaded guilty to corrupt practices. Apparently he cannot be named as he was assisting the authorities to investigate other allegations of corruption in the agency. Expect more arrests to be made and welcome to the black world of greed and of shameless men and women.
Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB) is the commercial investment holding company created to oversee and encourage regional development under the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) of Iskandar Malaysia, the main southern development corridor in Johor, Malaysia. A special growth area, Iskandar Malaysia is envisaged to capitalize on its current synergies with Singapore as it aims to complement each other as an economic hub.
One can then imagine the billion of ringgit being pumped in to realise this vision. But as commonly acknowledged, wherever there are money and opportunities to manipulate and in the absence of rigorous control, the people who manage the fund and, laughably, those close to them (like the husband of the former CEO of IIB) would tend to capitalize.
Of course not all will be in this greedy and shameless category but looking at the number of suspects and arrests so far in IIB, one would not be wrong to conclude that the corruption in this agency is not only rampant but frightening as well in its pervasiveness. It seems so widespread and it is almost as if their corporate culture is to line one’s pocket through graft.
The ultimate outcome of all these corrupt activities is higher cost to the government, hence the oblivious tax-payers, and higher cost of doing business plus the poor quality of construction works,safety infringement,shoddy workmanship, high maintenance cost et cetera as there would be no proper supervision of these when infractions and substandard works are swept under the carpet.
And don’t forget the international image of Malaysia as a destination for business and foreign investment. Bona fide foreign investors loathe corrupt practices as they end up having to fork out more and to unnecessarily jack up their cost and appear noncompetitive somewhere else and having to answer to their stakeholders. Graft is bad news for investment. Just look at the withdrawal of the major Middle-East investor in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fiasco when development cost escalated as corruption ate into the deals.
The sad thing is those officers in IIB, mostly consisting of one race and most of them seconded by Khazanah Nasional Berhad, are paid a relatively high salary and yet greed got the better of them. They have already got lovely houses,nice cars and a good life and yet these are not sufficient for them. Wanting to live a high life like going on annual holidays in London,Aspen,Paris, Monaco and traveling business class for the whole family as well as funding their children’s expensive education overseas could be factors that make them greedy and drive them to abuse their positions in the agency.
They do not have the foresight about possible discovery of their corrupt practices. Their greed knows no bound. The word shame (“malu” in Malay language) carries no emotive connotations. Shame is just a word.
Corporate governance is for the proverbial dust bin. Practical internal controls and a system of check and balance are only on paper as they romp towards making money illegally and using it to feed their families.
Unless the system possessed sustainable control mechanisms with less human interactions and operated by man and women of integrity, we are going to keep encountering these corrupt individuals out to enrich themselves at the expense of the government and eventually the ordinary man on the street.