Integrity body chief says some dept heads even become “ringleaders” of problematic public servants

SEPANG, June 14: There are higher-ups who collude in the misconduct of subordinates and even become their ‘ringleaders’, thus tarnishing the image of the public service, said Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) chairman Tan Sri Dr Ismail Bakar.

He said said anyone within the public service who engages in misconduct and violates the principles of integrity should be removed from the system, including department heads if they condone such misconduct.

“This unpopular action must be courageously taken. Even though it is not liked, such brave actions can save the image of the public service,” he said in his speech at the EAIC Coordination Meeting 2024 with department heads of enforcement agencies under supervision here on Thursday.

Ismail said the misconduct of enforcers and public servants will be known by their respective agencies, but there is a tendency for agencies to ‘keep’ problematic officers, a practice which must be stopped.

He said any department head who does not take action against such officers can be considered to have committed an offence.

“Retaining problematic officers will not lead to improvements in efforts to strengthen integrity. The current practice is to transfer problematic officers to other places.

“But it is like a never-ending cycle. The transferred officers will repeat the same actions in the new place and, worse still, influence officers and staff at the new place to engage in misconduct and lack of integrity,” he said.

Ismail said there had been attempts by public servants and enforcers to use third parties such as companies and influential individuals to protect their wrongful activities.

“The existence of cartels that try to monopolise and manipulate the market, especially for local white rice, eggs and other basic goods, causes losses to the country,” he said.

He said EAIC was concerned when enforcement agencies under supervision seemed to underestimate the punishment recommended by EAIC based on its investigations of complaints received.

“In general, the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority (PBT) of the enforcement agencies under supervision should not be lower than the recommendations of the EAIC since EAIC investigation officers have conducted thorough investigations and considered every aspect appropriately.

“When the PBT of these enforcement agencies do not adopt EAIC’s recommendations, it indirectly signals that they are not serious in addressing and have openly accepted misconduct and lack of integrity,” he said.

Ismail said if department heads consider integrity violations a trivial matter, then misconduct will continue to be normalised among civil servants.

He said this approach causes the enforcement agencies under supervision to assume that EAIC was established to find faults.

Ismail said EAIC was established in line with the government’s desire to strengthen and empower integrity among enforcers and enforcement agencies, which is reflected in every recommendation given by EAIC.

The coordination meeting was first held on June 22, 2022, and was agreed upon by the members at that time to be held regularly twice a year.