Renewed federal government efforts to stamp out graft have failed to stop Malaysia's slide down Transparency International's global corruption perception index (CPI) because of its failure to act on "grand corruption".
The integrity body noted that this is prevalent in the awarding of mega projects without open tenders, inflated military procurment and the close nexus between business and politics that is shrouded in secrecy.
Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) secretary-general Josie M Fernandez (right) said while there have been prosecutions against corruption, the "big fish" were still free.
"I've been told how sad it is when some small official who has taken petty amounts (of money) is dragged to court and shown on television.
"But the high-level officials, with their lavish lifestyle, are not dragged into the court," Josie said.
According to the CPI released by TI-M today, Malaysia's rank slid from 56th last year to 60th, with its score dipping from 4.4 to 4.3.
"Millions of ringgit have been poured into anti-corruption measures, but the government's target score of 4.9 has not been met."
Combatting corruption is one of seven National Key Results Areas of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), which is a core part of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's reform efforts.
'Gov't needs a wake up call'
This, Josie said, was aggravated by an ineffective Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, for its decision on prosecution still remained with the attorney-general.
"Even some of the appointments made to the MACC are politically-linked and its investigation papers are not made public."
Stressing that this slide must serve as a wake-up call, Josie said the government should demonstrate greater political will to address the decline in CPI and not dismiss it based on methodology.
"The survey is done by respected and reputable institutions. Political will must be translated into reforms on issues relating to greater transparency in mega projects and political financing."
In light of the sliding CPI, TI-M has made eight recommendations:
- Prosecute the 'big fishes';
- Introduce Freedom of Information Bill;
- Enhance the autonomy of MACC;
- Improve protective framework for whistleblowers;
- Impose stiffer penalties for corruption conviction;
- Fully implement the 'Integrity Pact' in procurements;
- Reform political financing; and
- Implement electoral reforms made by the parliamentary select committee.
Former TI-M president Ramon Navaratnam further proposed that a parliamentary select committee be set up to address these concerns, on top of requiring all ministers to declare their assets.
'Pemandu working on recommendations'
In an immediate reaction, Pemandu director D Ravindran who was also present, noted that the CPI for Malaysia had considered an extra report compared with last year, without which Malaysia's rank would have remained unchanged.
"However, the score is the score, we accept the score, we also accept the fact that more has to be done in the realm of grand corruption, especially in the realm of political financing and freedom of information."
Ravindran (right) said Pemandu was already working on TI-M's recommendations, but they were "not low-lying fruits" and required time.
"We also have a transformation effort with the MACC. We've brought private sector forensic expertise to tell MACC how and where to look for documents to sharpen their ability (to prosecute in the cases)."
Ravindran added that he was confident that the government would this time take TI-M's results constructively.
"I don't think you'll see them (ministers) brushing them aside. They are significant. This year you'll see everyone acknowledging its a wake-up call.
"We have made progress on the petty corruption side, but we really need to get to the grand corruption."