Ethics in Business: Walking the ethical track in Malaysia – a perspective

Reading Time: 10 minutes
Firoz1
By Firoz Abdul Hamid

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote “May one be pardon’d and retain the offence? In the corrupted currents of this world, offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice, and oft is seen the wicked prize itself buys out the law.” (Hamlet act 3, scene 3).  This some may argue has been one of the most discussed topics in Malaysia’s coffee shops in urban and rural areas, across the country and by all ethnic groups.

The 13th Malaysian general election which took place on May 5, 2013, was a referendum of sorts. Chief amongst them was corruption, or the lack of ingrained and notable outcomes in weeding out corruption in the public and private sector. Has the relationship between the public and private sector become too blurred that certain practices, which may deem outright violation to sound business practice, have become a norm in parts of the world? Has Malaysia fallen prey to this blurring of the lines? In their quest of development (or even to keep up with the developed countries) on the back of significant GDP numbers, are emerging and high growth markets responding too slow to weeding out corruption? Are the roles of watchdog bodies clear and are media being selective in highlighting the stories on ethics? Or is culture impeding these countries from doing so? What is blocking the tubes in the fight to eradicate corruption?

Perhaps businesses are so driven by bottom lines, bonus packages and executives on their recognition of status that the quest for ethics has gone to the back burners to rot, sometimes even couched as corporate social responsibility. Perhaps. If the business and quotes of Henry Ford are to mean anything, he once said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business”. On the back on these queries I interviewed Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, Managing Director of Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd, who continues to advise the government of Malaysia in very prominent capacities on this proverbial topic of ethics in Malaysia.

Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon’s views on business ethics in Malaysia

Tan_Sri_Yong
Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, Managing Director of Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd

1. Instituting ethicsMuch has been spoken of bankers and their work culture towards governance and their compensation/incentive packages. This cuts across industries and sectors. What drives ethics in any business? What is the role of leadership in instituting ethics? Can it be instituted?

Ethics is applicable across all sectors and for that matter, all aspects of life. The commitment of leadership of a company to ethics is important in setting the overall tone and environment for ethical business practices. Such commitment to ethical business practices is translated into written codes of conduct or guidelines that determine how company employees should interact with external parties principally in the areas of procurement and sales. Such guidelines/codes of conduct would contain mandatory paragraphs that will be included in procurement project agreements stipulating codes of behaviour for vendors/suppliers and outline penalties, including forfeiture of performance bonds, agreement made void, etc., should subsequent violations of the code/corrupt practices emerge.

2. Role of education and legislation –There are now discussions about having watchdogs, departments and legislations to ensure ethics. Can you realistically legislate ethics, or does ethics begin with the education system in a country?

Ethics cannot be legislated per se but laws can be legislated to effectively prevent corruption. Strong and effective enforcement, prosecution and conviction of the corrupt, without fear or favour, would be the best way to deter citizens of a country from engaging in  corrupt practices.

The education system can contribute significantly to the process in the long term as the young are educated and imbibed with the intrinsic value of ethical behaviour. However, education policy makers are currently absorbed in addressing a number of pressing issues in the education system with respect to quality and standards as we benchmark ourselves to international standards like TIMSS and PISA tests.

Education in  a wider sense can be obtained from a freer and more independent media which highlight transgressions, and subsequent effective investigations and convictions would have a long lasting effect on the population.

Apart from education, I believe that professional watchdogs have a role to play in self-regulation of their profession, and citizen/community-based groups can also be powerful vehicles in ensuring ethical behaviour if they receive the support and mandate from the community/stakeholders they serve.

3. Apolitical watchdog bodiesTo be effective, these bodies must be apolitical. In some countries, watchdog bodies are on the payroll of the government. In Malaysia, for instance, you have the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which has come under a lot of scrutiny and criticisms. Have they been effective in addressing corruption in the public and private sectors in Malaysia? Have politicians, public and private sectors taken them seriously?

In the Malaysian case, the watchdog bodies are mainly appointed from civil society and are not on the payroll of the government. MACC is still in the process of transforming itself from the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) days. Whilst independent panels and boards have been established to oversee its operations, however, organisational/structural changes are required before it can be fully independent.

A good method to start is hiring and firing – the inability of MACC to hire and fire officers (this role is undertaken by the Public Services Department) affects its ability to perform and to sanction or promote its officers. In addition, the post of the chief commissioner should be upgraded to be among the highest positions in the civil service. Once appointed by the Agong, the removal of the chief commissioner should  no longer fall under the purview of the executive but determined by an independent tribunal or body to ensure his/her effectiveness and independence.

This would allow the chief commissioner to be independent of the highest levels of the executive. In addition, the fact that the prosecuting officers are seconded by the attorney general’s chambers (to where  they will  have  to  return for their career prospects), is another factor which affects the  true independence of the MACC.  The presence of  senior legal counsels directly employed by  MACC to give opinions independent of the attorney general would be one way to  assist its panels and board to better  guide  the  MACC in its work.

It is a credit to the government that it took the brave step of appointing the chairman of the Malaysian branch of Transparency International, Datuk Paul Low to the cabinet. Knowing him, he  will certainly  inject viewpoints regarding transparency in government projects and policy setting right at the highest levels before decisions are made and this will have long term benefits for the country. Likewise  he will, in all likelihood, also be supportive of measures to strengthen MACC .

4. Ethics and bottom lines – Corruption distorts markets. Companies sometimes pay bribes or rig bids to win public procurement contracts. There are companies that conceal these acts under pseudo subsidiaries. Some seek to influence political decision-making illicitly. There are also cases of evading and abusing the tax system through legal loopholes. How does one balance between pressures of bottom-line, shareholder and stakeholder expectation with ethics in business? Can there be convergence?

Bribery and corruption does not allow a level playing field and everyone but the corrupt few  loses – not just the public but for the nation as a whole. To ensure ethical behaviour in public procurement, it is necessary for vendors/tenderers to sign an integrity pact prior to the bidding and awarding of projects. The integrity pact requires tenderers to formally agree to ethical practices, and if they are subsequently found to have violated such practices, they will need to agree to a forfeiture of the performance bond. Forfeiture of performance bonds would be frowned upon by shareholders or stakeholders and should instil the discipline required for businesses to compete based on merit.

As for taxation, the issue in ethics is that businesses should not be paying more taxes than what is required. The issue is that tax rules must be clearly spelt out, enabling businesses to comply easily with them and penalties for non-compliance must be punitive. This would make the payment of taxes to be spread out evenly amongst the proper taxable persons. At the same time, the tax collection and enforcement agencies must also be fair and ethical and collect for the authority only what is due. Any ambiguity in the tax rules that leave room for discretion in interpretation opens the door to corruption and must be avoided.

Ethics5. Weeding out corruption in Malaysia – Malaysia’s score in Transparency International’s CPI improved from 60 in 2011 to 54 in 2012. PEMANDU, the government’s transformation unit, shared views on how Malaysia names and shames offenders. How is corruption monitored in the private sector? What must markets do in instituting sound ethics or is this an unattainable target?

Successful enforcement of the law requires qualified and resourceful enforcement officers backed up with competent prosecuting officers from the attorney general’s chambers. Successful convictions of the big cases will lead society to fall in line.

There is a limit to what markets can do in instituting sound ethics if large scale flagrant violations are not successfully prosecuted and convictions obtained, leading  to grand corruption and state capture. In the early days of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) many letters alleging corruption were anonymous, but  now, by building up a strong reputation, the vast majority are complaints including names. Furthermore, three quarters of these complaints result in investigations, and when asked whether the ICAC has their confidence, more than 90 per cent  of the public say they do. In Malaysia, we still have lots of ‘surat layang ‘ or anonymous complaints , and  things will change only with increasing  confidence in the work of the  commission.

6. Sovereign wealth funds –  The argument against these funds is that they distort the market and do not promote a fair playing field. Government-linked companies are often seen to be favoured. In such a scenario, where markets are artificially distorted, ethics could be compromised. How can this be better administered? A case in point is the recent article highlighted in a Malaysian local online media on the role of Khazanah and 1MDB.

Your example of 1MDB is certainly one which would benefit from fuller disclosure. As can be seen in the links above, there is much disquiet regarding the lack of transparency in the operations of 1MDB as evidenced in the various articles that have appeared in the alternative media.

As the issued bonds appear to be guaranteed by the government, public funds were involved. When public funds are involved, full transparency and accountability is required. In Singapore or Hong Kong, public auctions of government land are conducted routinely to ensure that the state is fully protected in getting the best value for the common good. In the 1MDB case highlighted, it appears that parcels of prime government land were not auctioned but transferred at prices that were below market value, hence public money was involved and the expectation is that disclosure is necessary. The objectives may be noble, but given public interest, more details should be made available in a formal manner and at regular intervals.

7. Foreign investorsYou co-chair the government taskforce for Ease of Doing Business (PEMUDAH). What measures has Malaysia taken to protect foreign investors and investment? This in light of the recent news that UK-based investors are suing a company in Malaysia. Such news could potentially scare investors, so what should Malaysia do in highlighting soundness of ethics in its business environment?

One of the first things that PEMUDAH highlighted in 2007 was that corruption had to be addressed. Together with the Institute Integrity Malaysia we recommended that the ACA be made independent. We were glad to note that the recommendation was accepted, and as a result the MACC was formed in 2009. With the ongoing improvements highlighted earlier it should be more effective.

As to the UK-based investors issue mentioned where there seemed to be no action taken, it is of course publicity that Malaysia could do better without. I understand that since then they have decided to take the matter through the civil courts. Given the improvements made by the judiciary and the courts, whereupon the targeted time for disposal of cases is 9 months instead of the many years previously, the truth should emerge in a matter of months.

8. Royal Selangor – You have successfully built and run Royal Selangor Pewter as a brand and a business. You have built a strong brand based on trust. What did you have to do in ensuring trust is built in your brand? How did you institute ethics in how you run your business?

Over the many years, a strict adherence to good design and craftsmanship and 100 per cent delivery on time have won many customers, customers whom we intend to keep.  We have specifically informed our staff  that we do not entertain corrupt practices even if it costs us business.

Virtue9. Role of media – Companies sometimes buy advertisement spaces in media. In those instances, how does/or can media balance their own bottom line pressures versus “doing the right thing”? It often takes a journalist to uncover something, but in some media houses (not specific to any country) it then becomes a management decision whether to be the first to uncover such stories. What is the role of media and citizen journalism can play in instituting ethics in business?

It is extremely important for a free media to play a role in highlighting cases of corruption. It is a peculiar situation that in this country, through the licensing process, the mainstream media – press and TV – are owned by the political parties in the government.

This has led to self-censorship and suppression of  strong investigative journalism, and prevented unsavoury practices from being  brought to light as openly as it would happen in other democratic countries. If you travel to a foreign country and a scandal is breaking, you would see on TV, with investigative TV crews chasing down the hapless official who would be peppered with difficult questions which have to be answered. The lack of information to the public is among the reasons why corruption continues and education of the masses is not happening at the rate that it should.

Such restrictions do not apply to alternative media  –  and with the increasing adoption of social media, online news portals and streaming videos, the landscape is rapidly changing and  what could be covered up in the  past can go viral in a matter of  days. This development will certainly help in uncovering misdeeds, but it is necessary that effective investigation and prosecution accompany this to really complete the message that corruption does not  pay.

10. Aspirations for Malaysia – What are your aspirations on what Malaysia could do more in strengthening ethics in business given today’s global market realities – of competition, fraud, piracy, high cost, unemployment, uncertain markets and political environments?

Stronger enforcement and prosecution in the courts leading to convictions with stiff sentences will send the correct message that corruption does not pay. A much freer press and more liberal media licensing will also allow for better competition in presenting news which will, over time, lead to a more informed public that will not tolerate corruption as part of doing business.

 

Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon is managing director of Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd, manufacturer and exporter of pewter products. He graduated from the University of Adelaide with first class honours in mechanical engineering in 1968. For over three decades, Tan Sri Yong has been associated closely with the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), and is currently its president. Tan Sri Yong has served as a board member of Bank Negara Malaysia, a member of the National Economic Consultative Council and as a founding commissioner of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. In 2007, he was appointed by the prime minister to be the co-chair of PEMUDAH, the Task Force to Facilitate Business, together with the Chief Secretary of Malaysia. This task force comprises 9 private sector members and 21 of the top civil servants of the country. In February 2009, he was appointed member of the advisory board of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission. He  also  sits on the boards of  the  Malaysian Investment Development Authority  (MIDA) and the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE).

 

See other posts from our articles series on Ethics in Business:

Ethics in Business: Perception of sleepwalking

Ethics in Business: Facing medical ethics head on in Malaysia

Ethics in Business: A take on business ethics in the US

Ethics in Business: Moving Islamic finance from conference rooms to humanity

Ethics in Business: Soul of ethics in the new Dubai

Ethics in Business: A conversation with Professor Tariq Ramadan

Ethics in Business: Where is the education for narcissistic leaders

Ethics in Business. With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 1

Ethics in Business: With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 2

Ethics in Business: Are we aware of the Iagos in our midst?

Ethics in Business: Fair trade or fair game, who benefits really

Ethics in business: What moves the conscience when mortality is at stake

Please: CSR is not Ethics in Business

Panel discussion: Medical ethics (plus video)
(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Inside Investor contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)

 

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[caption id="attachment_8222" align="alignleft" width="163"] By Firoz Abdul Hamid[/caption] In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote “May one be pardon’d and retain the offence? In the corrupted currents of this world, offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice, and oft is seen the wicked prize itself buys out the law.” (Hamlet act 3, scene 3).  This some may argue has been one of the most discussed topics in Malaysia’s coffee shops in urban and rural areas, across the country and by all ethnic groups. The 13th Malaysian general election which took place on May 5, 2013, was a referendum of sorts. Chief amongst them...

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Firoz1
By Firoz Abdul Hamid

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote “May one be pardon’d and retain the offence? In the corrupted currents of this world, offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice, and oft is seen the wicked prize itself buys out the law.” (Hamlet act 3, scene 3).  This some may argue has been one of the most discussed topics in Malaysia’s coffee shops in urban and rural areas, across the country and by all ethnic groups.

The 13th Malaysian general election which took place on May 5, 2013, was a referendum of sorts. Chief amongst them was corruption, or the lack of ingrained and notable outcomes in weeding out corruption in the public and private sector. Has the relationship between the public and private sector become too blurred that certain practices, which may deem outright violation to sound business practice, have become a norm in parts of the world? Has Malaysia fallen prey to this blurring of the lines? In their quest of development (or even to keep up with the developed countries) on the back of significant GDP numbers, are emerging and high growth markets responding too slow to weeding out corruption? Are the roles of watchdog bodies clear and are media being selective in highlighting the stories on ethics? Or is culture impeding these countries from doing so? What is blocking the tubes in the fight to eradicate corruption?

Perhaps businesses are so driven by bottom lines, bonus packages and executives on their recognition of status that the quest for ethics has gone to the back burners to rot, sometimes even couched as corporate social responsibility. Perhaps. If the business and quotes of Henry Ford are to mean anything, he once said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business”. On the back on these queries I interviewed Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, Managing Director of Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd, who continues to advise the government of Malaysia in very prominent capacities on this proverbial topic of ethics in Malaysia.

Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon’s views on business ethics in Malaysia

Tan_Sri_Yong
Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, Managing Director of Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd

1. Instituting ethicsMuch has been spoken of bankers and their work culture towards governance and their compensation/incentive packages. This cuts across industries and sectors. What drives ethics in any business? What is the role of leadership in instituting ethics? Can it be instituted?

Ethics is applicable across all sectors and for that matter, all aspects of life. The commitment of leadership of a company to ethics is important in setting the overall tone and environment for ethical business practices. Such commitment to ethical business practices is translated into written codes of conduct or guidelines that determine how company employees should interact with external parties principally in the areas of procurement and sales. Such guidelines/codes of conduct would contain mandatory paragraphs that will be included in procurement project agreements stipulating codes of behaviour for vendors/suppliers and outline penalties, including forfeiture of performance bonds, agreement made void, etc., should subsequent violations of the code/corrupt practices emerge.

2. Role of education and legislation –There are now discussions about having watchdogs, departments and legislations to ensure ethics. Can you realistically legislate ethics, or does ethics begin with the education system in a country?

Ethics cannot be legislated per se but laws can be legislated to effectively prevent corruption. Strong and effective enforcement, prosecution and conviction of the corrupt, without fear or favour, would be the best way to deter citizens of a country from engaging in  corrupt practices.

The education system can contribute significantly to the process in the long term as the young are educated and imbibed with the intrinsic value of ethical behaviour. However, education policy makers are currently absorbed in addressing a number of pressing issues in the education system with respect to quality and standards as we benchmark ourselves to international standards like TIMSS and PISA tests.

Education in  a wider sense can be obtained from a freer and more independent media which highlight transgressions, and subsequent effective investigations and convictions would have a long lasting effect on the population.

Apart from education, I believe that professional watchdogs have a role to play in self-regulation of their profession, and citizen/community-based groups can also be powerful vehicles in ensuring ethical behaviour if they receive the support and mandate from the community/stakeholders they serve.

3. Apolitical watchdog bodiesTo be effective, these bodies must be apolitical. In some countries, watchdog bodies are on the payroll of the government. In Malaysia, for instance, you have the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which has come under a lot of scrutiny and criticisms. Have they been effective in addressing corruption in the public and private sectors in Malaysia? Have politicians, public and private sectors taken them seriously?

In the Malaysian case, the watchdog bodies are mainly appointed from civil society and are not on the payroll of the government. MACC is still in the process of transforming itself from the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) days. Whilst independent panels and boards have been established to oversee its operations, however, organisational/structural changes are required before it can be fully independent.

A good method to start is hiring and firing – the inability of MACC to hire and fire officers (this role is undertaken by the Public Services Department) affects its ability to perform and to sanction or promote its officers. In addition, the post of the chief commissioner should be upgraded to be among the highest positions in the civil service. Once appointed by the Agong, the removal of the chief commissioner should  no longer fall under the purview of the executive but determined by an independent tribunal or body to ensure his/her effectiveness and independence.

This would allow the chief commissioner to be independent of the highest levels of the executive. In addition, the fact that the prosecuting officers are seconded by the attorney general’s chambers (to where  they will  have  to  return for their career prospects), is another factor which affects the  true independence of the MACC.  The presence of  senior legal counsels directly employed by  MACC to give opinions independent of the attorney general would be one way to  assist its panels and board to better  guide  the  MACC in its work.

It is a credit to the government that it took the brave step of appointing the chairman of the Malaysian branch of Transparency International, Datuk Paul Low to the cabinet. Knowing him, he  will certainly  inject viewpoints regarding transparency in government projects and policy setting right at the highest levels before decisions are made and this will have long term benefits for the country. Likewise  he will, in all likelihood, also be supportive of measures to strengthen MACC .

4. Ethics and bottom lines – Corruption distorts markets. Companies sometimes pay bribes or rig bids to win public procurement contracts. There are companies that conceal these acts under pseudo subsidiaries. Some seek to influence political decision-making illicitly. There are also cases of evading and abusing the tax system through legal loopholes. How does one balance between pressures of bottom-line, shareholder and stakeholder expectation with ethics in business? Can there be convergence?

Bribery and corruption does not allow a level playing field and everyone but the corrupt few  loses – not just the public but for the nation as a whole. To ensure ethical behaviour in public procurement, it is necessary for vendors/tenderers to sign an integrity pact prior to the bidding and awarding of projects. The integrity pact requires tenderers to formally agree to ethical practices, and if they are subsequently found to have violated such practices, they will need to agree to a forfeiture of the performance bond. Forfeiture of performance bonds would be frowned upon by shareholders or stakeholders and should instil the discipline required for businesses to compete based on merit.

As for taxation, the issue in ethics is that businesses should not be paying more taxes than what is required. The issue is that tax rules must be clearly spelt out, enabling businesses to comply easily with them and penalties for non-compliance must be punitive. This would make the payment of taxes to be spread out evenly amongst the proper taxable persons. At the same time, the tax collection and enforcement agencies must also be fair and ethical and collect for the authority only what is due. Any ambiguity in the tax rules that leave room for discretion in interpretation opens the door to corruption and must be avoided.

Ethics5. Weeding out corruption in Malaysia – Malaysia’s score in Transparency International’s CPI improved from 60 in 2011 to 54 in 2012. PEMANDU, the government’s transformation unit, shared views on how Malaysia names and shames offenders. How is corruption monitored in the private sector? What must markets do in instituting sound ethics or is this an unattainable target?

Successful enforcement of the law requires qualified and resourceful enforcement officers backed up with competent prosecuting officers from the attorney general’s chambers. Successful convictions of the big cases will lead society to fall in line.

There is a limit to what markets can do in instituting sound ethics if large scale flagrant violations are not successfully prosecuted and convictions obtained, leading  to grand corruption and state capture. In the early days of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) many letters alleging corruption were anonymous, but  now, by building up a strong reputation, the vast majority are complaints including names. Furthermore, three quarters of these complaints result in investigations, and when asked whether the ICAC has their confidence, more than 90 per cent  of the public say they do. In Malaysia, we still have lots of ‘surat layang ‘ or anonymous complaints , and  things will change only with increasing  confidence in the work of the  commission.

6. Sovereign wealth funds –  The argument against these funds is that they distort the market and do not promote a fair playing field. Government-linked companies are often seen to be favoured. In such a scenario, where markets are artificially distorted, ethics could be compromised. How can this be better administered? A case in point is the recent article highlighted in a Malaysian local online media on the role of Khazanah and 1MDB.

Your example of 1MDB is certainly one which would benefit from fuller disclosure. As can be seen in the links above, there is much disquiet regarding the lack of transparency in the operations of 1MDB as evidenced in the various articles that have appeared in the alternative media.

As the issued bonds appear to be guaranteed by the government, public funds were involved. When public funds are involved, full transparency and accountability is required. In Singapore or Hong Kong, public auctions of government land are conducted routinely to ensure that the state is fully protected in getting the best value for the common good. In the 1MDB case highlighted, it appears that parcels of prime government land were not auctioned but transferred at prices that were below market value, hence public money was involved and the expectation is that disclosure is necessary. The objectives may be noble, but given public interest, more details should be made available in a formal manner and at regular intervals.

7. Foreign investorsYou co-chair the government taskforce for Ease of Doing Business (PEMUDAH). What measures has Malaysia taken to protect foreign investors and investment? This in light of the recent news that UK-based investors are suing a company in Malaysia. Such news could potentially scare investors, so what should Malaysia do in highlighting soundness of ethics in its business environment?

One of the first things that PEMUDAH highlighted in 2007 was that corruption had to be addressed. Together with the Institute Integrity Malaysia we recommended that the ACA be made independent. We were glad to note that the recommendation was accepted, and as a result the MACC was formed in 2009. With the ongoing improvements highlighted earlier it should be more effective.

As to the UK-based investors issue mentioned where there seemed to be no action taken, it is of course publicity that Malaysia could do better without. I understand that since then they have decided to take the matter through the civil courts. Given the improvements made by the judiciary and the courts, whereupon the targeted time for disposal of cases is 9 months instead of the many years previously, the truth should emerge in a matter of months.

8. Royal Selangor – You have successfully built and run Royal Selangor Pewter as a brand and a business. You have built a strong brand based on trust. What did you have to do in ensuring trust is built in your brand? How did you institute ethics in how you run your business?

Over the many years, a strict adherence to good design and craftsmanship and 100 per cent delivery on time have won many customers, customers whom we intend to keep.  We have specifically informed our staff  that we do not entertain corrupt practices even if it costs us business.

Virtue9. Role of media – Companies sometimes buy advertisement spaces in media. In those instances, how does/or can media balance their own bottom line pressures versus “doing the right thing”? It often takes a journalist to uncover something, but in some media houses (not specific to any country) it then becomes a management decision whether to be the first to uncover such stories. What is the role of media and citizen journalism can play in instituting ethics in business?

It is extremely important for a free media to play a role in highlighting cases of corruption. It is a peculiar situation that in this country, through the licensing process, the mainstream media – press and TV – are owned by the political parties in the government.

This has led to self-censorship and suppression of  strong investigative journalism, and prevented unsavoury practices from being  brought to light as openly as it would happen in other democratic countries. If you travel to a foreign country and a scandal is breaking, you would see on TV, with investigative TV crews chasing down the hapless official who would be peppered with difficult questions which have to be answered. The lack of information to the public is among the reasons why corruption continues and education of the masses is not happening at the rate that it should.

Such restrictions do not apply to alternative media  –  and with the increasing adoption of social media, online news portals and streaming videos, the landscape is rapidly changing and  what could be covered up in the  past can go viral in a matter of  days. This development will certainly help in uncovering misdeeds, but it is necessary that effective investigation and prosecution accompany this to really complete the message that corruption does not  pay.

10. Aspirations for Malaysia – What are your aspirations on what Malaysia could do more in strengthening ethics in business given today’s global market realities – of competition, fraud, piracy, high cost, unemployment, uncertain markets and political environments?

Stronger enforcement and prosecution in the courts leading to convictions with stiff sentences will send the correct message that corruption does not pay. A much freer press and more liberal media licensing will also allow for better competition in presenting news which will, over time, lead to a more informed public that will not tolerate corruption as part of doing business.

 

Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon is managing director of Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd, manufacturer and exporter of pewter products. He graduated from the University of Adelaide with first class honours in mechanical engineering in 1968. For over three decades, Tan Sri Yong has been associated closely with the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), and is currently its president. Tan Sri Yong has served as a board member of Bank Negara Malaysia, a member of the National Economic Consultative Council and as a founding commissioner of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. In 2007, he was appointed by the prime minister to be the co-chair of PEMUDAH, the Task Force to Facilitate Business, together with the Chief Secretary of Malaysia. This task force comprises 9 private sector members and 21 of the top civil servants of the country. In February 2009, he was appointed member of the advisory board of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission. He  also  sits on the boards of  the  Malaysian Investment Development Authority  (MIDA) and the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE).

 

See other posts from our articles series on Ethics in Business:

Ethics in Business: Perception of sleepwalking

Ethics in Business: Facing medical ethics head on in Malaysia

Ethics in Business: A take on business ethics in the US

Ethics in Business: Moving Islamic finance from conference rooms to humanity

Ethics in Business: Soul of ethics in the new Dubai

Ethics in Business: A conversation with Professor Tariq Ramadan

Ethics in Business: Where is the education for narcissistic leaders

Ethics in Business. With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 1

Ethics in Business: With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 2

Ethics in Business: Are we aware of the Iagos in our midst?

Ethics in Business: Fair trade or fair game, who benefits really

Ethics in business: What moves the conscience when mortality is at stake

Please: CSR is not Ethics in Business

Panel discussion: Medical ethics (plus video)
(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Inside Investor contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)

 

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