The community has changed its mindset and will now no longer tolerate graft WHEN MACAU'S anti-graft body, the Commission Against Corruption of Macau (CCAC), was set up in 1999, there were 393 corruption complaints. The following year there were 978, with a peak of 1,265 in 2001. Since then there have been around 1,000 complaints a year but CCAC commissioner Cheong U said the statistics reflected the community's confidence in the body rather than a surge in corruption after the handover of the territory by the Portuguese. The liberalisation of the gaming industry in 2002 brought an influx of foreign investment and more opportunities for graft. The first case of corruption reported to the CCAC after liberalisation of the gaming laws occurred at one of the new casinos. Mr Cheong said this 'shows managements of the new casinos are more willing to co-operate with the government to fight crime'. 'Since the new casinos have only opened for a short while, it is difficult to estimate the volume of corruption they will generate,' he said. Macau residents, however, believe that corruption has become less serious. A University of Macau survey showed that 9.4 per cent of the 1,018 people polled thought corruption was serious, a significant improvement from the 64.6 per cent three years ago. Macau first launched its anti-corruption drive in 1992 by establishing the High Commission Against Corruption and Administrative Illegality (ACCCIA). However, it was seen as ineffectual because it lacked power and resources. It did not have the right to investigate bank accounts and its requests to boost manpower were denied. After the handover, the CCAC was established and given greater investigative powers, and the right to use weapons, detain, and conduct searches and seizures. The CCAC considers the 'change in attitude and mentality of both the public and civil servants' with regard to corruption as a major achievement. A greater emphasis on civic education has contributed to this change. The public now realises the CCAC is an ever-present 'safe channel' for making complaints and expressing their views. Numerous seminars for civil servants on ethics and public procurement continue to 'arouse their integrity-awareness' and change their attitude towards corruption. The CCAC also hosts seminars for the private sector, especially banks and casinos, as a preventative measure, since it only has jurisdiction in the public sector. It has found that the steady number of complaints and inquiries received reflects an increased awareness among residents of their rights and an intolerance towards corrupt behaviour. In the past, residents tolerated corruption in the belief it was a 'normal' way of life. 'Corrupt activities in Macau originated from deep-rooted fraudulent behaviour before the handover,' Mr Cheong said. 'Eradicating the belief that corruption is acceptable and permissible will lay the foundation for maintaining a clean and orderly city.' Asked how the CCAC plans to keep up with Macau's rapidly changing socioeconomic environment, Mr Cheong said it would 'make adjustments according to the needs of residents'.