KL watchdog patrols cyberspace to sniff out corruption

Agency also gets tip-offs from public about civil servants who live beyond their means

PETALING JAYA • Malaysian civil servants and their spouses who post on social media about luxury items, such as branded handbags and watches, and expensive family holidays could be giving themselves away.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been monitoring these posts, particularly on Facebook and Instagram, to detect government officials who enjoy lifestyles that are not commensurate with their earnings.

The Star newspaper has been informed that in one case in Sabah state, a group of civil servants who went to London attracted attention when they showed off their holiday pictures on Facebook.

According to a state MACC source, the posting of expensive overseas holidays on Facebook raises questions if the person appears to be living beyond his means.

"We do look into it. We can consider them as initial information to carry out further checks.

"If it warrants an investigation, then we will probe," said the source, who declined to say if anyone had been found to be involved in corrupt practices or charged in court based on leads from Facebook.

"We cannot check all postings but mostly the public does send them to us and it is taken as a first information," he added.

LEADS FROM NETIZENS

We cannot check all postings but mostly the public does send them to us and it is taken as a first information.

A STATE MACC SOURCE

MACC deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki confirmed that the authorities were watching social media posts by civil servants.

"We also rely on public tip-offs and our own intelligence-gathering to investigate such cases," he said, adding that it is a huge task as there are 1.6 million civil servants across the country.

He added that there is nothing wrong with civil servants and their family members owning luxury handbags and watches.

"But having one too many Hermes, Chanel or Louis Vuitton bag will raise eyebrows and suspicion as to the source of their wealth. If civil servants or their family members are having more than a dozen and flaunt them, then we would like to know where they got the money to buy those bags."

Datuk Azam said the anti-graft agency will work closely with other government entities such as the Immigration Department to check how frequently senior officials travelled overseas with their family members and the reasons for these trips.

In the agency's latest arrest on Wednesday, some 150 handbags and watches were seized from the home of top civil servant Mohd Arif Abdul Rahman, who is secretary-general of the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.

Ministry secretaries-general wield considerable power as they are authorised to sign contracts worth up to RM100 million (S$32 million).

"The RM100 million limit was fixed for all ministries by the Finance Ministry," said Health Ministry secretary-general Chen Chaw Min.

"If any ministry wants to raise the limit, it has to get permission from the Finance Ministry."

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'KL watchdog patrols cyberspace to sniff out corruption'. Print Edition | Subscribe