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Contracts, Corruption, and Malaysia's Emphasis on Integrity

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

From procurement and bidding to oversight and project management, contracts are often fraught with malfeasance at all levels from beginning to end. The United States certainly continues to experience this whether it be with school systems, public housing, health care, or the Department of Defense (DOD).

Our government has worked tirelessly to incorporate critical safeguards and compliance systems to root out fraud, waste, and abuse, but evil-doers with evil intentions continue to circumvent anti-corruption countermeasures, which is costly to taxpayers and the overall public trust. In an August 1, 2017 op-ed article in The Hill titled, " Feds' rampant use of no-bid contracts the essence of corruption", David Williams revealed the following:

The Department of Defense isn't the only offender. In 2008, a federal investigation revealed that FEMA misspent nearly $46 million on four no-bid contracts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Department of Housing and Urban Development spends over one-third of its procurement funds on no-bid contracts. Only 58 percent of the Social Security Administration's contract spending is competitive. 

No-bid contracts don't just breed government profligacy, they also open the door to brazen acts of fraud and corruption.

There's no denying that these numbers are staggering, but as President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Williams is keenly aware of the pervasiveness of this problem and what is necessary to manage and overcome it.

The United States is not alone in this fight, however, as every government worldwide can attest to the pernicious problem of corruption in contracts. Take Malaysia for example. In a recent article in, Sarawak placing integrity officers in state ministries to stop corruption, Malaysian officials reveal their new initiative to respond to and overcome corruption's corrosive impact.

The state government will place trained certified integrity officers in all state ministries to ensure there is transparency and compliance with procedures in the awards of government contracts, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg said last night.

The article goes on to highlight Malaysia's commitment to making business and government much more accountable and responsible for the overall integrity of the state and that this responsibility must be shared mutually in order for Malaysia's economy to survive. Malaysia's Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg states, "...while the business community expects the state government to have high integrity, the state  government expects the same from the business community." The article concludes by saying, "[I]f corruption is allowed to take place in the state government, the economy will be in shamble. We must fear God, the business community must also fear God,”

As someone who studies, appreciates, and promotes the importance of applied ethics, collective responsibility, and personal and professional integrity, I find this article and the words of Malaysia's Chief Minister refreshing and reflective of a growing trend globally.

Shared responsibility, in particular, is the belief that moral harm can be imposed collectively due to the attitudes that inspire unethical behavior. Incorrigible actors share common beliefs and attitudes that influence others and create corrupt cultural norms. But if shared responsibility works this way to the detriment of society, it conceivably can work in reverse to inspire human goodness through the promotion of character and integrity collectively. In this regard, the nexus of responsibility is expanded beyond the traditional notion of the individual so that multiple people can both cooperate and conspire for either good or evil. When it comes to corruption, the state can certainly make this a powerful tool in efforts to emphasize its collective commitment to removing corruption at its core and elevating the virtues of character, integrity, and human flourishing. I applaud Malaysia and encourage robust strategies to make integrity the uncompromising new norm in government contracting and the role of business in government and society.

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