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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Meet the man behind MACC’s rising integrity

Former MACC deputy commissioner Datuk Zakaria Jaafar, who retired earlier this month, is happy that the public's perception of the commission increased from a 39% approval rating in 2009 to 68% last year. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, October 31, 2015.Former MACC deputy commissioner Datuk Zakaria Jaafar, who retired earlier this month, is happy that the public's perception of the commission increased from a 39% approval rating in 2009 to 68% last year. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, October 31, 2015.The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) public image has improved in recent months, largely due to its role in investigating the RM2.6 billion donation which was credited into Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's personal bank accounts.Yet, it was not too long ago that the anti-graft agency was facing a crisis of confidence, triggered by the death of former DAP aide Teoh Beng Hock while in MACC custody.
The change in public perception can be attributed in part to Datuk Seri Zakaria Jaafar, who recently retired as MACC deputy commissioner (Management and Professionalism).
Zakaria made headlines recently when he revealed in his retirement speech that MACC was in the midst of an investigation involving "the most powerful person in the country".
In an exclusive interview with The Malaysian Insider recently, Zakaria said that fighting corruption required having strong principles.
With over 20 years of experience working with MACC, Zakaria said his guiding principles in dealing with corruption was to ignore rank and position.
He said MACC's main enemy were the corrupt, as graft destroyed society and left an adverse impact on the country.
"You can see in a video on YouTube, I told MACC officers in 2013 what our roles were, what we do to prevent corruption.
"I said that anyone who commits graft is our enemy. We have no other enemies. Not any party, rank or race," he said.
"Whether a person is our family member, a politician or even the prime minister, if someone complains of corruption, it is our responsibility to investigate."
The Kelantan-born, who officially retired on October 12, called on the public to work with the commission by providing information on graft, and urged everyone to understand that MACC's duties were not trivial.
"It becomes a problem when the public do not understand MACC's working process. There are a lot of processes involved, and once we've wrapped up investigations, it is not our job to prosecute the individuals.
"The prosecution is handled by the deputy public prosecutor and the last process involves the court.
"Society must work with us, if we don't stem corruption, the country could collapse anytime," said Zakaria, who admitted that his time with MACC was bittersweet.
Rising public confidence
Zakaria said he was happy that public confidence in the commission had risen from 39% in 2009 to 68% in 2014.
We wanted to know the public's confidence levels in us so we carried out a survey, and at that time it was only at 39%. That really shocked us.
"But it increased to 68% and our target for 2015 is 70%," said Zakaria.
"If you look at our history, in the 12th general election (2008), the government won a simple majority and lots of corruption issues were raised. People accused MACC of not being transparent nor free.
"We presented our solutions, and finally the government decided to turn us into a commission," said Zakaria, who holds a Bachelor of Accountancy from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
Changes to the MACC Act affected five bodies within the commission, he said.
Life of moderation, free of debts
The father of 11 shared that he lived a moderate lifestyle, and this had helped him purchase his home without taking out a loan.
"I had a difficult upbringing, my father was a farmer. He taught me since young to live moderately and not acquire debt. We spent according to how much we could afford.
Zakaria revealed that the house he currently lived in had taken 10 years to complete.
He had first purchased a parcel of land with his own savings, costing RM40,000, and then began building his house little by little, always working within his budget.
He said he had never used a credit card nor did he eat out, and advised the youth of today to manage their own finances wisely.
Zakaria also reminded Malaysians to not neglect their parents' needs.
"Give them some money, even if it's just RM10, because that is our responsibility. We have to believe in the providence of God's blessings."
He advised parents to invest in education insurance and open a Tabung Haji account to maintain consistent savings.
"Believe me, even if you save a little, you will see the results," said Zakaria, who revealed that he funded all his children's education on his own.

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