AS the former president of Transparency International Malaysia and now an honorary commissioner in the MACC, I am deeply disappointed with Malaysia’s poor performance in the International Corruption Perception Index (CPI). We have dropped seven places from 55 to 62 out of 180 countries. Our CPI score has declined to 47/100, well below the perceived passing mark of 50/100.
This is the worst result in the last five years. It’s not only deeply disappointing but gravely disturbing and damaging to Malaysia’s aspirations in building the image of a developed or high-income nation.
Why did the CPI fall so fast?
MACC chief Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, the whole of MACC and indeed the Government and the minister in charge must be very upset with the result.
The reasons for the fall have been partially provided frankly by Dzulkifli himself in an immediate and knowledgeable response. He says that it’s the overall perception of the country. It’s not corruption per se in its narrow concept but the decline in good governance. He is surely right.
This means that too much politicking, growing racial and religious intolerance, wastage of public funds, a weakening of morality and some big scandals are also responsible for the bad CPI result. And don’t forget money politics which will be rearing its ugly head soon.
All the good work done by the MACC to robustly fight corruption has been negated by the apparent inability to do more to contain grand corruption. Although medium-sized and petty corruption could have been reduced, it is the grand corruption that matters to Transparency International in Berlin.
What can be done now to improve the CPI? Many recommendations made by TI Malaysia and other NGOs have been presented and pushed for a long time.
But they have been dashed in the hope that we can combat corruption within the current framework of governance. This mild approach can’t achieve much, as the latest depressing CPI result has shown.
What is needed are more radical and meaningful structural reforms. For example, the MACC should be made responsible only to Parliament and report directly to Parliament. The Whistleblower Protection Act must be improved. This will encourage more whistleblowers to come out without fear of being charged and convicted themselves.
The MACC should also be a more independent body with full powers to hire and fire its staff who would not be beholden to government employment. There are many other global best practices to adopt if we are really serious about combating corruption more effectively.
There is no need for the MACC to ask the Government for feedback or direction on what to do next to get out of this corruption trap. The MACC is fully aware about what has to be done.
Let’s hope it will give the Cabinet a full and honest appraisal on what has gone wrong and what needs to be urgently done to prevent further deterioration in the CPI.
Then let the rakyat judge the future direction to fight corruption which is causing inflation and undermining national unity and destroying our national soul.
God bless Malaysia!
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
ASLI Center for Public Policy Studies