Politicians declaring assets: Malaysia can look to Indonesia

KUALA LUMPUR: Elected representatives must declare their assets to the public, a civil society coalition has proposed, and Indonesia has a framework that we can adopt here.

This suggestion is part of GIAT’s (Governance, Integrity, Accountability and Transparency) five-point Good Governance agenda for Malaysia, which was announced here Wednesday.

“We need a standard. The Bar Council is helping us draft this so that people can go to every political party and get them to endorse it.

“Then if they win, when they win, this is what they will adopt in the coming five years,” said Cynthia Gabriel, executive director of the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4).

She said that Indonesia’s asset declaration legal framework was the most relevant to the Malaysian context.

“There, public officials are required to submit a wealth report within two months of taking office, being transferred, or promoted.

“There’s nothing wrong with being rich as long you are rich in a legitimate way,” she said.

Under current Malaysian law, ministers and top government officials declare their assets only to the Prime Minister, on a yearly basis.

Members of Parliament, however, are not legally required to declare their assets, and the states have no legislative enforcement on such asset declaration, not even in Opposition-run Penang and Selangor.

Malaysia also lacks an independent mechanism to verify asset declaration.

However, some lawmakers have voluntarily declared their assets, such as PSM’s Dr Michael Jeyakumar, who has declared his assets yearly since being elected to office in 2008, as well as PKR’s Rafizi Ramli.

Civil servants are governed by a service circular which looks at ownership and declaration of assets, as well as the Public Officers Regulations (Conduct and Discipline).

In its agenda, the full framework of which is expected to be available within a month, GIAT proposed that a law be implemented at the federal level to make it mandatory for ministers, MPs and other elected officials to declare their assets to the public.

“Senior public officials should also be mandated to declare their assets to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“The MACC should be given the mandate to verify and monitor asset declarations by all politicians and civil servants,” GIAT said.

GIAT comprises the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), C4, the Sinar Project, Transparency International Malaysia, and Friends of Kota Damansara.

Its five-point agenda, which was announced in light of the coming general election, also calls for legislation to affirm the independence of various institutions including the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

It also urges the enactment of a Freedom of Information law, a review of the Official Secrets Act, and wants greater transparency on budgets and expenditure.

It also wants a law that requires all political parties declare all forms of income and expenditure.