Despite millions of ringgit spent on anti-corruption measures, Malaysia’s ranking on the 2013 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) only improved marginally

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 4th December, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur

In the latest 2013 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Rankings by Transparency International, Malaysia’s position marginally improved from 54 in 2012 to 53 in 2013 and Malaysia’s overall score improved from 49 in 2012 to 50 in 2013. This marginal improvement is unacceptable given the hundreds of millions of ringgit spent on improving transparency and reducing corruption, including the efforts under the Anti-Corruption National Key Results Area (NKRA) as part of the Government Transformation Program (GTP).

As an example, the operating budget of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for 2013 was RM252m and the operating budget of the National Audit Department for 2013 was RM148m giving a total for RM400m for these two agencies alone. Additional millions were also spent on the labs and workshops for the GTP 2.0 labs, workshops and open day as well as advertisements in 2013 which included initiatives under the Anti-Corruption NKRA.

The end result was only a marginal improvement. Malaysia improved by one position, overtaking Georgia, which fell from 51st position in 2012 to 55th position in 2013. This is hardly an achievement to be proud of. Malaysia is still lags behind our neighbours in Asia and the Middle East including Singapore (5), Hong Kong (15), Japan (18), United Arab Emirates (26), Qatar (28), Bhutan (31), Taiwan (36), Brunei (38) and South Korea (46).

Malaysia’s score on the CPI has also hardly changed. Although the score has increased from 49 to 50, the devil is in the details. The minimum and maximum score received by Malaysia on the 9 surveys used to calculate Malaysia’s score is the same in 2013 as it was in 2012 which is 31 (minimum score) and 62 (maximum score) respectively. This means that Malaysia’s score improvement is probably the result of a marginal improvement in ONE of the NINE surveys used by TI to calculate Malaysia’s overall score.

While the intentions of those in charge in the National Audit Department, in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and in the Anti-Corruption team in PEMANDU’s Government Transformation Program (GTP) may be good, the intention to seriously address corruption is lacking among the BN leaders. As an example, in a recent briefing that was organized by IDEAS and supported by PEMANDU on the 3rd of December 2013, where Members of Parliament were briefed by the Auditor General, Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, the Head of MACC, Tan Sri Abu Kassim and the Head of the Malaysian Institute of Integrity, Mohd Nizam Mohd Ali, not a single Barisan Nasional (BN) member of the Dewan Rakyat showed up. In comparison, 30 Pakatan MPs were in attendance. The only government representative present was Datuk Paul Low, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department overseeing integrity, good governance and human rights.

Public perception with regards to regulatory and enforcement agencies, transparency in government procurement and the willingness to tackle grand corruption – the three main thrusts of the anti-corruption NKRA – remain low especially after ‘big fish’ such as Tun Ling Liong Sik was not successfully prosecuted and convicted over his role in the PKFZ scandal and whose judgement was not even appealed by the Attorney General.

The budget of MACC for 2014 has been increased to RM298m and the budget for the National Audit Department has been increased to RM169m giving a total budget of RM467m for these two agencies. Given this increased budget, the improvement in Malaysia’s CPI score and ranking for 2014 has to be significantly better than 2013.