Corrupt to the Core


In Malaysia, the circus comes to town early in the year with the release of the Auditor-General’s Annual Report and the horrendous revelations of leakages, irregular payments and wastages. These are no longer a one-off issue of non-compliance but an annual event that breaks record over the previous year.

The latest National Audit Report (NAD) 2021 screams that the government lost a hefty RM158.08 million due to losses in public funds, irregular payments and wastages across various ministries and agencies due to non-compliance in the financial management.

In one word – Pilferage.

Even the once noble creative industry which once thrived on the ethos of blood, sweat and tears has evidently succumbed to “corrupt degradation”. Rare are the days where advertising agencies pitted their best talents to produce stellar creative communication and marketing campaigns.

Creative workers will always cut across racial, religious and gender barriers.

We are a passionate breed of colour-blind Malaysians.

Something our crafty politicians will certainly frown upon.

We thrive on beating the odds solely driven by an insane passion to deliver the most outstanding creative campaigns possible.

Remember, just one: Malaysia, Truly Asia!

I recall upon graduation in 1979 working in the comfort of large multinational advertising agencies as a young copywriter, before experiencing a baptism of fire whilst working for an underdog local ad agency in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Bintang district.

I had become a street fighter and learnt to strategically outsmart creative pitches with the all-powerful multinational agencies helmed by a global legion of extravagantly-paid, cigar-smoking expatriates.

Dealing with the Government

The next phase of my baptism was none other than immersing in the culture of tendering for campaigns with government agencies and ministries. Here, the playing field rules were different. It was no longer stellar creative deliverables but who can cut the most lucrative deal with crafty politicians and civil servants.

On the outside, it certainly looked like a level playing field but on the inside it was deep-throat at work!

Without fail, the government allocates annual budgets to the tune of millions and millions of Ringgit for various campaigns including promoting Malaysia as a world class tourist and investment destination.

As agencies, instead of doing national service while earning some coin, we walked onto minefields.

More often than not, in the name of syiok sendiri, winning a government advertising campaign tender is rarely benchmarked against clarity in messaging nor cost-effective media buy to reach the right target audience but more often based on a creatively disguised “maximum extraction formula”.

I still recall my agency won a government advertising tender several years ago  to promote agriculture as a third engine of growth for both creative and media placement. The Ministry of Finance (MoF) issued us with two separate Procurement Orders (PO) – one for creative and another for media.

Everything looked very good and above board but as we were concluding our creative campaign including shooting of commercials, out of the blue spanners were thrown.

All of a sudden, someone in the higher pecking order, demanded that the MoF issued PO for media buy be cancelled and instead, be awarded to a crony company. Never in my life had I witnessed responsible tudung-clad female civil servants looking totally shocked and dismayed at such blatant abuse of authority.

The higher pecking authority even had the audacity to impress upon us to help his crony manage the media campaign!

This revelation is just a tip of iceberg as I am very sure there many more blatant abuses of authority in the awarding of advertising campaigns in Bolehland.

How can we make Malaysia a great nation again?

 The Madani-inspired, unity government of Prime Minister Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim must walk the talk. There cannot be any further delays.

Without fear or favour, PM Anwar must strike incisively and speak out in clear and simple language, time and again, that no one is above the law and there is no such thing as a harmless wrap on the knuckles even for non-compliance by civil servants.

The relevant authorities must take action – whether it is criminal or non-compliant in nature – as there is a symbiotic relationship between both.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, if there is one person who can take charge and take action, it is You.

Our feudalistic mentality demands it.

NEXT: The moral cost of doing political campaigns

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