Sunday 1 December 2019

Back On The Governance Circuit

I was invited to be a panellist at a forum which touched on anti-corruption  the week before last. This was the last session at the Governance Convention 2019 organised by Institutional Investors Council and the Securities Industry Development Centre. My co-panellist was Tan Sri Abu Kassim, the Director General of the Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) which is leading the fight against corruption in addition to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Tan Sri Abu Kassim shared key initiatives rolled out by the GIACC to combat corruption including asset declaration by our members of Parliament. He also alluded to the introduction of Political Financing Act, which according to him a very critical component of anti-corruption as politicians have influence and could override systems and processes of public institutions.

I shared few key points with regard to the implementation of section 17A of the MACC Act which will be effective June next year. The new provision would introduce corporate liability to businesses which are involved in corruption unless they are able to demonstrate that they have implemented adequate procedures to prevent corruption.

Corporations and organisation which have high standards of corporate governance would have treated corruption as an evil which they would not be associated with and would be part of their risk management and internal control policies. The effectiveness of section 17A would only make these organisation more focus on the effectiveness of their anti-corruption systems.

On the other hand, any system implemented in organisations would be effective if they are ran by people who have integrity and committed to the highest level of corporate governance. Hence, over reliance on systems and processes without continuous efforts to educate and develop the hearts and minds of people in organisations could also result in surprises.

The tone from the directors from the top must shape the tune in the middle and the tap of the feet on the ground. Management must ensure everybody is dancing to the same song. The the board fails to ensure management and the rest of the corporations to play ball, the risk of corruption and failure of governance would remain high even though there is a new law regarding corporate liability due to corruption.

A corporation operates in a wider ecosystem where external elements can also shape its behaviour especially when competition for business is intense. If there are elements which can misbehave and remain are out of reach from enforcement actions, other elements in the ecosystem would be under pressure to play to the tune. Hence, laws such as section 17A would only be effective if it is enforced without fear or favour and complemented by political financing law which is said would be enacted.

Being back on the governance circuit was something which made me happy. So many things had happened since my last posting on this blog. I pray that I would be able to walk my talk in carrying out the responsibilities which I am now carrying.

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Governance And The Modern Society

I was invited to share my views on governance and its importance in a modern society at Masjid Al Iman, Kemensah. This was my second appearance in a masjid to discuss about governance and integrity, topics which are rarely discussed from the societal perspectives in mosques.

Given the audience, I thought it was appropriate to simplify my thoughts into the following points:
  • A modern society relies heavily on the services provided by various agencies, organisations and institutions in the public and private sectors such as utilities, education, health and security;
  • The quality of leadership, management and governance practices in these organisations would determine the policies and strategies they formulate, the service levels they offer and the prices charged or cost recovered from the public;
  • The government is not an alien structure but a representative body elected by the Rakyat to govern and administer our funds, resources and affairs on our behalf;
  • Government's funds consist of taxes which we pay, proceeds from our assets which they sold, royalties etc from resources extracted from our lands and borrowings made on our behalf. Hence, if development and operating expenditures are not made prudently, we may need to pay more taxes or government may need to borrow money to pay for these additional expenditures;
  • Borrowings by the government involve cost, the interest or financing charges paid. For example, if government's borrowings are RM 100 billion, cost on these borrowings wound be approximately RM 4 billion, which is a huge sum of money and is deducted from the amount otherwise would be spent for the benefits of Rakyat;
  • Governance in the public sector is equally important as in the private sector although the Code on Corporate Governance was conceived in 2000 for the application in the capital market;
  • Management involves activities and processes to move organisations towards their missions and visions. This include strategy formulation, operations, marketing, financial management, talent management and development as well as compliance with rules and regulation;
  • Governance on the other hand is the process to oversee management and the running of organisations and to ensure their objectives are met and risks managed. This involve stewardship, roles and functions of the board, risk management, internal control, assurance and culture;
  • While governance and management could involve the application of various systems, processes and policies, their effectiveness is dependent upon the people who are given the trust and responsibilities;
  • Corporate governance failures occur not due to the lack of people with knowledge, skills and values required to perform their duties but when they do not have the courage to do the right thing at the right time. Good people simply look the other way when transgressions happen; and
  • Doing the right thing requires courage and the willingness to confront the adverse consequences which come with it.
I appealed to the audience to continue to demand good governance for the sake of their children and our future generations.

Sunday 30 June 2019

The AOB 2018 Inspection Findings and Insights

The Audit Oversight Board (AOB) issued its 2018 annual inspection findings and insights for the benefits of the stakeholders last week.

As at 31 December 2018, there are 49 Malaysian audit firms with 338 individual auditors registered with the AOB auditing 1,164 public interest entities.

It was also noted that the capacity of audit firms had increased compared to when the AOB was set up in 2010. The shift in the size of audit forms, assessed by the number of partners are as follows:

Audit firms with2 partners or less has shrunk from 71% in 2010 to only 29% in 2018. With the new registration criteria imposed by the AOB, this category of firm will disappear completely by 2020. This is important as the minimum of partner required to ensure compliance with auditing standards is 3.

Other highlights from the AOB inspection findings for 2018 are:

  • For engagements which resulted in satisfactory findings, engagement partners do not audit more than 4 PIEs;
  • For audit engagements with satisfactory findings, the Engagement Quality Control Reviewers had at least 8 years audit experience as audit partners;
  • Average training attended by audit staff for engagement which resulted in satisfactory findings was more than 70 hours;
  • Collective time spent by engagement partners and managerial staff in engagements with satisfactory findings ranged from 11% to 37% of the total time spent; and
  • Professional accountancy qualifications is one of the common denominators in audit engagements with satisfactory findings.
For the overall quality control review, leadership responsibilities for quality in audit firms, compliance with relevant ethical requirements and outcomes engagement performance remained as key observations by the AOB.

Another interesting observation is the percentage of income from audit for the major audit firms in Malaysia has shrunk to 66% compared to 71% in 2016. Are these audit firms moving away from audit?

The top 5 findings from AOB's engagement reviews are:

These are audit areas where robust planning, effective supervision and professional judgments are required to be exercised by engagement partners, EQCR and the managers of audit engagements. The appearance of auditor's report for the first time in 3 years could be due to the implementation of the new auditor reporting standards.

The full AOB inspection findings and insights report could be downloaded here:

AOB Annual Report 2018

The Audit Oversight Board issued its latest annual report last week.

Amongst the highlights are:

  • The AOB was recognised by the Asian Corporate Governance Association as one of the most effective audit regulator and probably the best communicator.
  • Introduced new criteria for registration with the AOB where the minimum number of partner has been increased to 3 and attached to a single firm only
  • AOB considered the usage of data analytics in audit of public interest entities
  • 14 enforcement actions were taken in 2018 focusing on the outcomes of these measures
  • Various engagement with local and international stakeholders in enhancing audit quality
The AOB 2018 annual report can be downloaded here:

Monday 20 May 2019

Modern Thieves Are More Potent

One of the places where tourists should not miss when visiting Kota Bharu is what I refer to as the Historical Circuit. It is located around Istana Balai Besar, Istana Jahar, Padang Merdeka, Masjid Muhammadi and few another historical sites which define Kota Bharu in the past.

Istana Balai Besar is still being used for official ceremonies such as during the birthday of the Sultan or when new Sultans are proclaimed. It is surrounded by  tall wooden walls which make the interior part to be hidden from the public. There are a number of historical structures around Istana Balai Besar such as old cannons and Bank Pitis. Bank Pitis was the state treasury where the wealth of the state was kept. It is a small strong house built out of bricks and cement. Any thief who wanted to steal the wealth kept inside had to break its door, at least.

Bank Pitis
Stealing in the modern era has changed so much that sometimes the public could be confused by the act and consider it as something honourable. If we follow the reports on how corporations lost their money through corporate scandals, these scandals were structured carefully so that the crimes were hidden until such time where the stolen assets were already distributed around the world and to recover those assets required serious efforts with the cooperations of enforcement agencies from those jurisdictions which could be challenging.

Modern stealing requires brain power and real power. The brain power would device the schemes and the real power such as those held by directors would execute the schemes for themselves or on behalf of those outside the organisations who would eventually benefit from the crime. The schemes could be structured as investments into assets where their prices are highly inflated or as contracts where a huge sum would be contracted out to parties who are part of the schemes. No real goods or services will be provided to the victim organisations. 

Due to the nature of modern thefts, the amount involved had reached into billions, in whatever currencies we talk about. Hence, the impact is much greater compared to, if Bank Pitis was broken into in the old days. It would be easier to track down the thieves of Bank Pitis and the stolen good could be easily identified compared to the lost zeroes in bank accounts of the victims of modern thefts. Worse, some organisations raised bonds before those monies were stolen. So, they ended up with liabilities which have to be repaid over a long period of time.

What could be stolen by modern thieves would make
breaking into Bank Pitis like stealing loose change only
Hence, it is critical for modern organisations to strengthen their internal control and governance processes so that they would not fall victims to these smart and resourceful thieves. Selection of senior management and board members must include integrity assessments, as those who are willing to compromise their integrity could cause huge damages if they decided to turn rouge. 

We should also educate the public that white collar crimes are worse than stealing goats or cows or hard cash, notwithstanding these crooks become donors and give out money to charities and religious organisations. Stolen money should remain as such, stolen money. Don't glorify thieves.

Tuesday 30 April 2019

The Mystical Bali

While attending a conference on future competencies of accountants in Bali recently, I took the opportunity to explore Bali which it known for its beauty, culture and mystic.

I stayed at Nusa Dua, a private property where most international hotels are located. The security is tight, which makes you feel safe while enjoying the beauty of its beaches and food. An early morning stroll at the beach will give you the opportunity to enjoy sunrise and the changes of the complexion of the beach as the sun become brighter.

My first port of call was Bali Collection, a 5 minutes walk away from the hotel which I was staying. It gathers various cultural and local products in a very nice and cozy place, suitable for foreign tourists. You need to pay a bit more for the convenience and comfort.

I met Dr. Nur Mazilah, the CEO of MIA who was attending the same conference. We had an early seafood dinner while discussing about the development and issues of the accountancy profession in the region.

After the first day of the conference I, together with few other Malaysian delegates, went to Pantai Kandonganan  to have seafood dinner. This is one of the "must visit" places in Bali to enjoy its fresh and delicious seafood. Some of the food stalls offer cultural shows to their customers. On our way back to our hotels we stopped by a durian stall by the roadside and tried the taste of the King of Fruits, the Bali version.

I purposely took the evening flight out from Bali. That allowed me to spend some time around the mystical island. I hired a car and went to Bedugul, a highland where the famous Candi Kuning and Pura Ulun Danu are located. As our car climbed the hilly road toward Bedugul, I could see a beautiful scenary of the highland and padi fields which provide bountiful supply of food to the Balinese.

Although the weather was getting cloudier as we were arriving at Puri Ulun Danu, it somehow provided me with an interesting photo opportunity. The overcast sky made a very nice background of the temple.

After a quick lunch at a Muslim eatery located at the front at temple and a short stop at the nearby mosque for prayers, we headed back to Denpasar, the capital of Bali where the airport is located. It rained cats and dogs on our way back which prevented me from taking more photos of the beautiful scenery.

Although this was my third time in Bali, there are more places to be discovered. Bali offers an opportunity for visitors to observe tolerence and understanding as people from various beliefs and backgrounds congregate to make their leaving or enjoy the beauty of this mystical and beautiful island. If we view things from the lenses of humanity, we would find less reasons for conflicts and hatred. That is what you will bring back from Bali.

Saturday 27 April 2019

Disrupting A Profession

Where on earth could be a better place to learn about disruption other than Bali? The so called "Island of Gods" provided the right setting about the future which is highly volatile and exciting, full of the unknown unknowns. I was there to attend the IAI-AFA-IAESB International Conference 2019 with the theme "Professionalism of Accountants in the Disruption Era".

The conference was held in conjunction with the meeting of the International Accountants Education Standards Board's (IEASB) meeting held at this famous tourist destination.

It was also a reunion of sort as I managed to meet colleagues and friends from the accountancy profession who were together with me in the leadership of regional accountancy bodies. The guest of honour was Dr In-Ki Joo, the President of the International Federation of Accountants. In-Ki was together with me when we served the Executive Committee of the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Accountants (CAPA). My Indonesian best friends, Pak Ahmadi Hadibroto and Pak Djoko Susanto, were there as well. They were my "partner in crime" when we led the Asean Federation of Accountants.

While we are fully aware of the rapid changes in the ways we live and work, particularly driven by technology and globalisation, the focus of the conference was how accounting education should evolve in meeting the demands arising from these changes. When industries are disrupted, accountants who are serving employers and clients within those industries must be able to create value using new competencies which are relevant, especially in using volumes of data and information which are captured through various means. 

I was impressed with the thoughts of Prof. Ainun Naim who was representing the Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education of Indonesia. In facing the 4th industrial revolution, competitive graduates should be literate in data, technology and humanity instead of the old literation of reading, writing and arithmetics. Universities should develop the cognitive capacity of students such as critical and systematic thinking skills, nurture cultural agility and enhance their entrepreneurship abilities. Indonesia will liberalise their eduction systems and allow education institutions do deliver education through various means including social media.

The other key focus area was professional scepticism and judgment of accountants which are widely discussed and challenged worldwide. This is also my favourite topic as I was closely involved in dealings with auditors' judgments when I was the Executive Chairman of the Audit Oversight Board. While the panellists shared the latest updates of the area, I sensed some reluctance in acknowledging that profits as one key drivers which caused professionals not to ask pertinent questions when performing their work. I suppose the debate will continue especially with some latest developments in the United Kingdom in reforming the auditing industry.

The topic of education reform and nurturing new key competencies were discussed in great details by experts from IAESB committee members and industry players. Telekom Indonesia is really serious in embarking on projects which not only change the ways their employees work but maximising their new competencies which are blended with technology in creating value for its customers.

What was clear to me is the importance of lifelong learning. While accountants may complain about their Continuing Professional Education requirements, that is the only way for them to acquire new skills and competencies which are critical in a highly disruptive business environment. At the same time, the time tested professional values such as integrity and courage to do the right thing will remain relevant for accountants to be respected as trusted professionals.

Ibu Elly, the Executive Director of Ikatan Akuntan Indonesia (IAI), and her team from IAI were really great hosts, not only in ensuring the conference went smoothly but also in providing us with their Indonesian hospitality. As usual, food was great!

Sunday 31 March 2019

Proposed MIA Competency Framework: Why industry should care

The Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) this month had issued a draft competency framework for public exposure and comments. Based on my recollection, this is the first time MIA attempts to develop a formal and structured competency framework to ensure accountants who are registered with MIA are able to perform and deliver professional services to their employers and clients.

In coming up with the proposed competency framework, MIA took into considerations the recommendations of the Committee to Strengthen the Accountancy Profession (CSAP) and the Report on Observation of Standards and Codes for Accounting and Audit which was conducted by the World Bank in 2012. It engaged the Accounting & Audit Research Consultants to draft the framework (MIA CFM).

According to MIA "The MIA CFM is a set of principles that defines the baseline competencies and skill sets required to become accountancy professionals who are able to demonstrate their proficiency at different levels namely FoundationIntermediate, and Advanced” as defined by the framework issued by the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB). The development of MIA CFM helps to assure the market that the title refers to accountancy professionals who have demonstrated the achievements of the baseline competencies required to excel in a specific role".

When MIA was established in 1967, it was empowered by the Accountant Act, 1967 to register accountants in Malaysia and to conduct examinations to assess their level of competencies. However, the examination power was never exercised, instead MIA recognised those who are members of professional accountancy bodies to be registered with MIA as Registered Accountants and Public Accountants. In early 70's, graduates from recognised institutions of higher learning started to be recognised for registration as well. The reasons for the inclusion of these graduates were never properly documented and remains as a contentious issue until today as this is not practiced in economies where the accountancy profession is considered matured.

What makes this issue worse is when most of the graduates of the recognised university qualifications are given partial exemptions by various professional accountancy bodies, sending a signal to the market that they are not equal. These graduates would need to sit for additional professional papers before given full membership.

In 2000, the Accountant Act was amended to abolish the examination power of MIA and those registered with MIA are known as Chartered Accountants. This created a perception which is different from the original intention of the law. Other than MIA, I am not aware of any other bodies which refers to their registrants as Chartered Accountants, without a proper professional assessment.

While the exposure draft on MIA CFM focuses on the competencies of the three levels of membership as proposed, we as the stakeholders in the industry, should also consider the whole membership framework to ensure it is robust enough to produce accountants as envisaged in the MIA CFM.

Malaysia had been benefiting from the services of accountants trained by various professional accountancy bodies from Commonwealth countries which are recognised here. These bodies do not only train our accountants to achieve their baseline competencies but those competencies were regularly reviewed to ensure they meet the demands in the various markets they serve. This is very important as not only we get our accountants to be close to the curve but their perspectives and specialisations provided huge value to our companies and institutions which need to compete with global peers and competitors. It would be unfortunate if this arrangement is made more difficult due to pressure from interested groups within the accountancy profession.

I really hope that market participants and industry players would take this opportunity to provide feedbacks and expectations for MIA to seriously consider. It is important to note that the reason MIA exists is to be the guardian of professional standards through registration. This is a statutory requirement which requires MIA to place public interests ahead of any sectoral interests within the accountancy profession. MIA should not abdicate this responsibility.

The exposure period ends 10 May 2019.

Saturday 30 March 2019

Responding to Disruption in Banking, Finance and Accounting

I was invited to a forum at the Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation in Bukit Jalil last week. The forum was held in conjunction with their Open Day where prospective students and their parents were invited to participate in the discussion.

The topic was about Disruption in Banking, Finance and Accounting and apart from myself, other panellists were banker, auditor and company secretary. I was supposed to share my experience as an accountant who are now involved in the financial services industry.

I started by sharing where things were when I was studying as an accounting student in Perth, Australia. I was using Multiplan for worksheet and Words for word processing when the present popular solutions were not there yet. When I worked in a Charted Accountants firm in Perth, I was asked to work out a cash flow projection for a client for the purpose of a loan application. We used broad paper sheets for that work. I asked by boss why don't we use electronic spread sheet? He agreed and I used the knowledge from university to complete the work. After that, all similar work ended up on my desk! That was a small innovation, so to speak.

Fast forward, I am now the Chairman of BIMB Investment Berhad where one of our funds uses artificial intelligence and Big-data to make investment decisions. The assets of the fund are re-balanced on a daily basis, without any human intervention. It reads 50,000 news sites in 15 languages to find news on the counters we track and would decide to buy or sell based on their Environmental, Social and Governance practices. BIMB Investment had just collaborated with CIMB to promote further the fund which is one of the largest Shariah-compliant ESG fund in the world.

I also shared my observation as a director of Bank Islam where we are preparing ourselves to compete with various fund-raising platforms enabled via technology and liberalisation of rules. While financial services companies are using technology to make their businesses more effective, technology companies are also coming into the industry and offer financial services. Which one would survive?

My advice to the audience was to continuously upscale ourselves with knowledge and skills which are required and relevant to the disruptive environment. No two-way about it. Otherwise, we would be irrelevant to the fast moving financial industry. I shared the recent request for proposal exercise by one of the companies which I am on the board. All audit firms which participated proposed auditing approaches which leverage on data analytics. Even a slow moving profession in terms of innovation is forced to innovate.

On the other hand, integrity and professional values would remain core to the accounting profession. One must be willing to do the right thing at the expense of losing a good position. That is what professionalism is all about. We mus walk the talk.

Saturday 16 February 2019

My Perspectives About Muslims in Cambodia

I visited Phnom Penh with my wife over the Chinese New Year break with a friend who had been in and out of that country for a very long time. We wanted to visit the Muslim communities in Cambodia and to see for ourselves their living environment and social development.

Our first stop was just across the Tonle Sap river which flows across Phnom Penh. We went to visit a community living by the riverside in the district of Chroy Changvar. This community consists of around 180 families and some of them joined this community when they were displaced by development projects elsewhere. Some live in small boats anchored by the riverside and some have their small shacks made of wood and plastics.

Their children go to the nearby schools and when they are free, they wonder around and play along the riverbank. It would be tough for them to break away from the hardship of their parents although we met a few who studied in Malaysia before.

While I passed a new and modern mosque not far from this community, I wonder whether they offer education and skill training which could empower this community to be able to live on their own feet.

The next day we went to visit another Muslim community at Kampung Cham, around 3 hours drive from Phnom Penh. The community is located around another hour drive from the town centre.

The community which I visited live in a more organised way. They have a mosque and a simple school, better homes and water supply. They received aids from abroad including from Malaysia.

I was invited to one of the community leaders' home and we were served with grilled river fish and vegetable soup. Very mouth watering considering the journey which we took to be there. 

Perhaps what they need to focus on moving forward is to find ways to equip themselves with knowledge and skills so that they could develop economically and intellectually. I am sure Muslims would be more respected if they can take care of themselves better and contribute more towards nation building.

The third community which we wanted to visit was in Kampot, which is closer to the Vietnamese border. It is also famous for its durian. I can assure you that it tastes amongst the best which I had ever tasted. The journey was very rough as we took an alternative route where a third of the road was heavily damaged and was in the process of re-construction.

After a very nice seafood lunch, we visited a village where a nice mosque was re-built with the assistance of Malaysians. I had a peek at a school which offers the skills of reading Quran. A number of boys were reading in front of a teacher to ensure they got it right. The rest were happily rehearsing their reading and  made a lot of noice. They were cool enough to pose for me when I snapped their photos.

One bit which concerns me right across the trip was the level of integrity of people. I was told that when it comes to money, we must be very careful in ensuring the funds get spent according to the wishes of the donors. Better to give them money in front of others so that other people know that the money is meant for specific purposes, not for personal use of the recipient.

Given the whole country is going through a fast phase of modernisation especially with investments from China and South Korea, these communities could be trained to access knowledge using technology such as e-learning. Could sound far fetch but I view relevant knowledge and skills to be as critical as the traditional education which is made available to their young generation.

Friday 1 February 2019

National Anti-Corruption Plan - What Are Our Roles?

The Prime Minister recently launched the National Anti-Corruption Plan which intends to break the corruption chain and to get Malaysia to be known for its integrity, not otherwise. This should be seen as the continuation of anti-corruption journey which could be traced to the National Integrity Plan which was formulated in 2004.

The present state of corruption should not make Malaysians proud. 63.3% complaints against corruption involve the public sector and Malaysia's position in the Corruption Perception Index had always been on the lower side for the many years until now.

The National Anti-Corruption Plan envisages a corrupt-free nation predicated on the improvements of government efficiency, transparency and accountability, based on good governance. This will create a clean business environment and efficient and responsive public service delivery. For this to happen, public procurement, legal and judicial systems and law enforcement have to be effective.

There would be 6 strategies which would be rolled in 22 initiatives over the next 4 years.

What would be our roles in ensuring the goals of the plan in addressing corruption in Malaysia to be achieved? I am convinced many would be playing the spectators role, doing nothing and will be commenting a lot from the side. Well, that is very much the fact of life in many countries anyway.

I trust the would be Malaysians who would be doing their level best to contribute. Given the scope of the plan, there would be plenty of opportunities for us to be involved, both in the public and private sectors. Strengthening governance should not be seen as a private sector affairs. In fact, why we are where we are is very much due to the failures in public governance.

One other aspect that is important is for the Malay/Muslim communities to view this as part of the objectives of Shariah. Corruption results in the abuse of public funds. One of the objectives of Shariah (maqasid) is the protection of assets/wealth. Hence, ensuring national wealth to be administered effectively and distributed justly falls within this Shariah objective.

In the larger picture, all Malaysians have the responsibilities to build this country to one which benefits everyone. Opportunities should be shared predominantly on merit with government intervention with the sole objective to address inequality, if any sign appears. The rule of law should prevail, based on the constitution of this country. Then only, Malaysians will have the confidence to compete in fair and objective manners, for the benefit of the society at large.

Monday 21 January 2019

41 Years of Friendship

Today marks the 41st anniversary of our friendship as the all males 6th batch of MRSM Kota Bharu. We called ourselves WATTOP. Long story but suffice to explain that it means attention seeking, sort of.

To commemorate the occasion, we had a thanks giving dinner in Shah Alam last night. It was organised in a very short notice but the participations were great. More than 20 of us  were there. Food was excellent.

As usual the conversation was around our friendship at the college. However, this time around, we spoke more about supporting each other into the future, the state of the country and life after retirement. A number of us consider themselves already retired although many more are still active, working or in business. Perhaps, this shows the stage of life we are in as we move slowly past the half-century mark. 

While we have gone separate ways in living our lives, having different views and opinions, such a gathering would always bind us together. The common background enables us to appreciate differences, some thing which is seriously lacking in the society at large although we are all Malaysians, to say the least.

We launched a fund to help each other in needs. Hopefully this will grow into something which is meaningful. Not all of us are as lucky as the rest. I suppose this will be the opportunity to bind us closer.

Being the alumni of the MRSM system, our achievements will be assessed based on how much we had given back to the country. How much have we lived with this responsibility? The investment made in nurturing us as well-educated Malaysians should inspire us to pay forward for the future on Malaysia.

I look forward to joining many more Wattop events.

Saturday 12 January 2019

Starting 2019 On Governance and Anti-Corruption Themes

So far I had been interviewed on television twice in 2019, both on the topics related to governance and anti-corruption.

The first interview was aired on 2 January on Astro Awani. I was invited to the programme "Let's Talk" hosted by Sharaad Kuttan. The other co-panellist was Dato' Sri Akhbar Satar, the chairman of Transparency International, Malaysia.

As Malaysians have high expectations on various reforms instituted post the 13th general election, the topic of governance and anti-corruption would be amongst the key indicators whether the new administration would be fulfilling their promises for a better Malaysia.

I stressed the points on the need for effective institutional reforms so that our key institutions such as police, anti-corruption commission and various other regulators remain independent and perform their duties without fear or favour. At the same time, the introduction of the political financing law, as promised, would require political parties to revamp their business models and be more transparent on how they are funded. I also suggested that financial reporting in public sector to be treated in similar manner with the private sector where senior public officials who cause financial statements of public institutions to be false or misleading to be fined and jailed.

A day later I appeared again with Dato Akhbar as well on a talk show "Ruang Bicara" on Bernama News Channel on similar topics. This time the programme was hosted by Sherkawi Jirim, someone whom I knew since small since he started an investigative reporting programme "Panorama" on RTM. It was very popular until, according to Sharkawi, the then power that be wanted it to be shelved.

The Malay-speaking programme allowed callers from all over the country to call in and shared their views on corruption. It appeared that the desire of Malaysians for corruption to be tackled seriously remained high.

While Dato' Sri Akhbar shared his ideas on how corruption should be addressed, I repeated by views on the need for institutional reform and the introduction of the political party financing law. I also explained how corruption resulted in the society to be deprived of funds for development and direct assistance to the poor and needy.

I am very happy that I am able to contribute, in my small way, to enhance governance in Malaysia so that government would be more responsible when spending the Rakyat's money. 

May 2019 be a year where more structural reforms are introduced to combat the evil of corruption and elevated our governance practices to the level where we would be proud of as Malaysians.

Link to my Let's Talk interview:

Link to my Ruang Bicara interview:

Friday 11 January 2019

Change Is Constant, How Do We Steer It To Our Favour?

New year is always associated with new resolutions, aims and goals. Nothing wrong with that. The world will continue to change whether we like it or not. The question is what do we don so that it revolves to our favour and we achieve all the goals which we target.

The change drivers may not be changing, Society, Economy, Technology, Environment and Politics, but the elements within those drivers could be changing as well. This requires us to know what the those elements which are changing before we develop our response or figuring out how to benefits from those changes.

The key word is we need to strategise and DO SOMETHING. While that sound very logical and many people do have ideas what to pursue, the challenge is whether we have the discipline to follow through and do what we plan to do.

To make it easier for us to act later, we should start by identifying the goals which we want to achieve. Then we should detail out the steps which are required.

If we back to the wisdom of Einstein "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" then there should be new efforts in our "to-do list" for this year compared to the year before.

To accept the reality that what worked (or we thought worked) may not be working in the future is not easy. What more when those beliefs provide us with some advantages, for example false comfort. We may not realise that by holding to those beliefs we are left behind by people who are more open to review their thoughts and willing to take risks in doing things differently.

It would also be easier if we group these action plans into 4 categories:

  1. What are the new things which we need to do?
  2. What are the old things which we need to stop doing?
  3. What are the old things which we need to do more?
  4. What are the old things which we need to do less?
With such clarity, if would be easier to allocate resources and exert efforts in pursuing all the goals which we set. Otherwise, after a while, all the old habits will drag us back to doing the old stuff and steering us backwards.

The other part is about assessing progress. This is more difficult as we could be bias towards seeing things in a more favourable ways then accepting what our performance really is. Do we need someone external to judge us? Perhaps. If we are not honest ourselves, then we need someone honest to show whether we are progressing, not moving or even digressing!

It is not too late for me to wish all of you happy new year (there is another new year coming soon - the blessings of being in Malaysia) and I pray that all our goals would be achieved and we are able to steer the changes around us to our favour.