The latest release of the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International (TI) yesterday was an eye-opener, highlighting the weaknesses of the Malaysian government’s administrative framework and institutions in fighting corruption, potentially further permeating into the lives of the people.
The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) is deeply troubled by Malaysia’s score of 47 points, ranked at the 61st spot alongside countries like China, Cuba, Armenia and Jordan; backtracking by as many as six points within the span of these three to four years (2019-2022). The damaging result positions Malaysia as a struggling nation desperate to rise beyond the worsening socio-political and economic depression perpetuated by widespread corruption.
The following table explains Malaysia’s continual backsliding since 2019 in the annual global corruption perceptions index:
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* The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The scores are given on a scale of 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean)
** Out of 180 nations. The worse the ranking, the higher the perceived corruption
*** Released on 31 January 2023
One of the main reasons for Malaysia’s deplorable score was the evident lack of political will among MPs to strategically and effectively address corruption that, by now, has become institutionalised.
It is worth noting that last week, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim declared that corruption is the main threat to the nation. It is now more important than ever for the prime minister to ‘put action’ into his words by carrying out long overdue reforms.
The continual slide in perceptions will also have a negative economic impact in terms of foreign investors’ confidence at a time when Malaysia needs all the support it can get to revitalise a troubled economy.
In view of this development, C4 Center hereby calls on the government to look into any outstanding and critical reform efforts, particularly those aligned with the national anti-corruption plan (NACP) 2019-2023 initiatives.
C4 Center remains steadfast in advocating for robust institutional reforms and stands ready to provide assistance to realise the many initiatives discussed and proposed under the NACP.
The corruption that threatens to undermine the nation’s institutions in favour of the self-interests of certain individuals must be arrested before Malaysia’s governance worsens to the point of no return.
C4 Center urgently recommends the following:
- Revise and amend the existing Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 to allow disclosure to external parties, such as media, MPs, civil society organisations and other bodies not listed by the Act. In the same vein, affording public interest defence to whistleblowers that disclose information despite being prohibited by written laws such as the Official Secrets Act 1972, Section 133 of the Financial Services Act 2013 and Section 203A of the Penal Code
- Reform the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to include granting it full independence and autonomy in its investigative capacity as the central corruption-fighting body, freeing it from any undue influence or intervention from external parties, ie the rxecutive. In addition, an oversight entity to oversee the MACC’s appointments for the post of chief commissioner, its budget and personnel-related areas should be set up
- Separation of the attorney general and the public prosecutor’s office to ensure the independence of prosecuting cases
- Enact a political funding or political financing act to curb the culture of ‘money politics’ deeply ingrained within Malaysia’s political system. Rent-seeking and patronage practices provide an avenue for the nexus between politics and business to persist, thus proliferating conflict of interest and abuse of power
- Legislate a public procurement act over the practice of merely issuing countless treasury circulars and directives that have failed to curb mass waste, leakages and abuses in procurement of public projects, being the most vulnerable area of administration exposed to corruption. Having a law to govern it will minimise direct negotiations, thus increasing transparency and encouraging inclusivity for public participation and scrutiny in matters relating to procurement for the people’s welfare
- Mandate the practice of asset declaration. C4 Center in collaboration with the Bar Council had previously prepared a public asset declaration framework that could be integrated within the existing legal framework, demonstrating the current administration’s commitment to the principles of upholding integrity, transparency and accountability to the people.
The battle against corruption can no longer be taken for granted. To that end, the government is advised to approach reforms with greater conviction and, at the same time, engage more closely with civil society members to strengthen public confidence in the government’s commitment to this matter.
When the rule of law takes a back seat in the face of unabated corruption, civil rights, democracy and the lives of Malaysians will ultimately pay the price. – C4 Center