SMEs: No choice except to offer bribes

SMEs: No choice except to offer bribes
Graphic used to illustrate bribery.

PUTRAJAYA - Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have voiced concern over threats of stiff fines by enforcement officers who inspect their premises, leaving them no choice but to offer bribes to avoid unnecessary summonses.

SME Association of Malaysia president Teh Kee Sin said many entrepreneurs had claimed that they were in perpetual fear of such enforcement officers, who tended to ask for bribes instead of issuing compound notices.

"For example, a Health Ministry enforcement officer inspected the premises of our member entrepreneur recently and found an isolated incident where mosquito larvae was breeding in a tyre with a little rainwater.

"The officer immediately threatened to issue a RM5,000(S$2000)compound notice and later offered the manager a 'deal' of RM400 to let the matter pass," he told a press conference at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters here yesterday.

Teh, along with the Federation of Malaysian Hawkers Association president Datuk Lee Teong Chwee, had earlier met with the MACC to discuss a solution to corruption issues plaguing their members.

Lee said about 90 per cent of hawkers had at some point been forced to pay a bribe to avoid being fined by enforcement authorities.

"What I am most concerned about is that the officers threaten the hawkers instead of educating them on the do's and don'ts.

"We would understand if the hawker was a repeat offender, but most first-time offenders are unaware that they have not followed the rules," he said.

Meanwhile, Teh noted that SMEs faced the corruption issue most frequently when renewing licences and applying to hire foreign workers.

"As these processes are tedious, our members are often approach­ed by middlemen claiming to be able to speed up the process.

"They claim payments of RM5,000 to RM6,000. This does not include the bribes the applicants have to pay to other parties.

"Applicants eventually find they have to engage the services of the middlemen. Otherwise, the task at hand seems to be never-ending," he added.

Both Lee and Teh expressed hope to work with the MACC and other relevant agencies to address the matter and encourage those who had been threatened to lodge reports with the commission.

Both associations have also joined the MACC's anti-corruption and integrity campaign, which will begin in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

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