The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and other "reforms" introduced by the government has so far been ineffective in fighting corruption in the country.
Transparency International president Datuk Paul Low said today they have not produced "the desired results" and so the public perception of corruption remains unchanged.
"Malaysians are fed-up with the status quo and the unbearable effects of corruption in the country," he told a press conference after presenting the country report in the Global Corruption Report (GCR) 2009, which focused mainly on corruption in the private sector. Also present was TI executive director Mark Chay.
Low said indicative of this is the Global Corruption Barometer 2009 survey released in May which showed that 70% Malaysians believe the Malaysian government is ineffective in fighting corruption.
In contrast, although Indonesia’s has a far worse position in the corruption perception index than Malaysia, the survey found that 76% of its people believe the Indonesian government is effective in fighting corruption.
"Before the MACC was established last December, the public perceived the then Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) was not independent from the executive branch of the government. "The ACA was perceived to be selective in its investigations and prosecutions, in that they catch only the small fry and leave the big fish -- and it was politically motivated," he said. “With the MACC now, although there are commissioners from outside in its new structure, it is really difficult to say if it is any different from the old ACA and MACC has yet to prove this statement otherwise,” he said.
Low pointed out that the controversial death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock in July, in itself raises questions on the MACC's professionalism and hints of abuses of powers in the way it conducts investigations.
Likewise, the GCR pointed out that the implementation of the watered down Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to a Special Complaints Commission (SCC), strongly indicates the government’s inability to regulate the gatekeepers.
Low said the public needs to be confident of a clean police force which is free from external influences and that investigations are conducted fairly into all reports lodged to the police.
The GCR report noted that inaction in the light of serious corruption allegations and inability to catch the ‘big fish’, has gravely undermined public confidence in the authorities. “Public confidence will be further undermined if these issues are not addressed quickly and effectively,” said Low, pointing out that issues pertaining to alleged tampering in the appointment of judges as highlighted in the V.K. Lingam case, has been left unresolved since 2007.
Low stressed that the inter-relationship and participation between the government, civil service and private sector, in effect, negates the concept of check and balance. “A common thread running through politics, the civil service and private sector is the revolving door, through which individuals move from government to business or business to politics and back again,” the report highlighted.
Low said while it is good in the context of solving economic problems and dealing with investments, “political patronage or funding and money politics are big issues in the economics.” "Until drastic action is taken to separate the cozy relationship between government, business and politics, the anti-corruption effort will remain no more than a token gesture,” he stressed.Among others, the GCR said the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) case - which it described as one of the biggest scandals of the year - involving politicians, government officials and businessmen, substantiates the weak oversight of public-private relationships. “The complexity of the relationships between politics and private sectors mean that corruption may take place with impunity.
Therefore, the practice of revolving and rotating doors and active government participation in the economy creates an appearance of impropriety…and increases corruption risks,” said the report.However, Low was happy to note that there has been commendable efforts in making public the details of the scandal. “Never in the Malaysian history has there been such a disclosure before,” he said.
Meanwhile, the GCR commended the Penang state government for introducing several measures to improve the regulatory environment with regard to government procurement, referred to as a CAT -- Competent, Accountable and Transparent - government.“It is the first state government to implement the open tender system for government procurement and contracts,” it noted.
As to the question of whether corruption is a way of life in Malaysia, Low said: “Yes, when the society believes that nothing can be done to fight it; when elected representatives and their close supporters believe that they are there to make money for themselves; when institutions and enforcement agencies are ineffective and independence are compromised; and yes, when dishonesty, corruption and self-indulgence becomes values that are tolerated.” - The Sundaily