World

'Bring back polygraph to weed out the corrupt'

KUALA LUMPUR Several groups in Malaysia are pressing for the polygraph test - a screening system that has proven effective in preventing and weeding out corrupt practices in the civil service - to be brought back.

The assessment, more commonly known as a lie-detector test, was used not too long ago to screen civil servants.

Used in tandem with other tools, including a comprehensive database on asset declarations that would red flag a person living beyond his means, it struck fear among those with corrupt tendencies or those who had something to hide. This was also among the reasons why its use was discontinued.

The New Straits Times (NST) learnt that not too long ago, an entire division of a government agency had failed a polygraph test that had been commissioned.

The personnel, most of them senior officers, had, during the test, admitted to stealing money and abusing their position for gratification. That was the last time the agency, which collects revenue for the country, used the polygraph test to screen its officers.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiner Malaysian Chapter president Akhbar Satar verified the case, as it was he who conducted the tests.

NST also learnt that many years ago, as part of the screening process for fresh intakes into the service, candidates were hooked up to a lie-detector.

It was, however, scrapped because some took exception to what they described as "potential employees being treated like criminals", and there was also resistance from several government agencies.

SUGGESTION

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner (operations) Azam Baki said the Public Service Commission (PSC) should consider making polygraph tests part of its recruitment policy.

Only then could the service arrest the problem of corruption plaguing the sector. He said if the tests were reintroduced, it would augur well for the integrity of the sector as those with corrupt tendencies would be red-flagged from the start.

PSC, he said, should compel officers seeking employment in government agencies to undergo a lie-detector test.

This, he added, should begin with those applying for posts within the management and professional groups, as these would comprise individuals who would be filling critical positions in public agencies.

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