Renew efforts to combat corruptionWritten by Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil
In the recently released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2020 by Transparency International (TI), Malaysia's rank fell to 57th position out of 180 countries.
Denmark and New Zealand occupy the top spot in the 2020 CPI, maintaining their same positions in 2019. Both countries attained a score of 88/100, indicating very low instances of corruption. It is an irrefutable fact that both nations are known for high levels of transparency in the public and private sectors.
Within the ten Asean member states, Malaysia (51 points) sits in third place behind Singapore (85 points) and Brunei (60 points). On another note, Singapore ranks third in the overall CPI, together with Finland and Switzerland.
Among the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, Malaysia lags behind the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (21st spot, with 71 points), Qatar (30th spot with 63 points) and Saudi Arabia (52nd spot with 53 points).
We have to come to terms with the fact that Malaysia is struggling to reduce its corruption cases. Even as the country is preoccupied in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been no respite when it comes to corruption.
In 2020, statistics from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) indicate that there were 998 cases of corruption involving public servants and the public in general. In 2019, there were 1,011 cases, and 894 cases in 2018.
Among government efforts to combat corruption was a circular on giving and receiving 'gifts'. The MACC No Gift Policy (Nov 14, 2014) was part of the circular, which forbids public officers from receiving or giving 'gifts' if they are related to his official public duty, and/or, the form, amount or worth of the 'gift' does not commensurate with the intent of the 'gift'. The objective of this policy is to prevent scenarios where 'gifts' are used as bribes and safeguard the integrity of public officers.
The National Corruption Plan (NACP) 2019-2023, launched on Jan 29, 2019, was introduced by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to inculcate a sense of accountability and integrity within its administration.
The efforts made to combat corruption by the previous government is now continued by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government. An example of this initiative is the tabling of a political financing bill in Parliament, in line with the NACP 2019-2023.
This bill looks at local legal frameworks in terms of political funding by external entities. From here on, the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is tasked in preparing a report on the policy of political funding for the perusal and action of the government. This report is to be made available before the second meeting (of the third term) of the 14th Parliament 2021.
We will do well to remember that corruption will have an impact on a nation's economy. Malaysia needs to improve its CPI ranking for 2021 to attract more foreign investment. According to a 2020 report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Malaysia has decreased 68 per cent, totalling to a meagre US$2.5 billion.
In order to get our economy back on track, there is an urgent need to reduce corruption, if not eradicate it entirely. Those at the helm of leadership have to realise that corruption is a systemic issue.
It trickles down from the top to the bottom, where different strata of society will be adversely affected. The government's initiative to curb corruption has to address its causes rather than merely dealing with its effects.
It is the responsibility of all citizens, regardless of race, religion, and/or political affiliations, to come together in dealing with this cancer within society. There has to be renewed effort to combat corruption in all its guises; to ensure that 'integrity' is not just a word that appears in national slogans from time to time, but an actual practice in the lives of Malaysians.
Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil is Deputy CEO, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia;
Published in: New Straits Times on Tuesday, 02 February 2021
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