Malaysia scores lower in transparency index

The appointment of inexperienced politicians to helm GLCs and GLICs is among the contributing factors for the decline

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

MALAYSIA has scored lower in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2020, dropping to 57 last year from 51 in 2019 in a worldwide ranking with a total score of only 51 out of 100.

Transparency International Malaysia president Dr Muhammad Mohan (picture) said the stall in the country’s institutional reforms, acquittal or discharge of high profile’s court cases and limited access to information on public interest matters have influenced the country’s corruption inclination.

“(The government) has failed to table and pass the Political Funding Bill and as a result, money politics is still rampant during elections.

“Also, the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill was revised and watered down to an ineffective bill.

“The acquittal or the discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) to high profile personalities in several corruption cases such as Riza Aziz and Tan Sri Musa Aman is also a contributing factor,” he said.

Muhammad also argued that the information on public interest matters should be made available to allow greater transparency.

“There is limited access to information on matters of public interest. The information should not be hidden under the non-disclosure clause in agreements unless it directly impacts national security.

“For example, the compensation for termination of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed railway project should be made public. The actual compensation paid by Goldman Sachs Group Inc on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd case is still unknown,” he said.

Muhammad added that Malaysia’s score was also brought down by the appointment of inexperienced politicians to helm government-linked companies (GLCs) and government-linked investment companies (GLICs), and lack of punitive action towards abuse of power by public figures.

However, Malaysia also showed some positive developments in its effort to encourage wider transparency, such as the development of the National Anti-Corruption Plan, ongoing court cases of other high-profile figures alleged involvement in corruption and the enforcement of the Corporate Liability (Section 17A) provision of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act.

Muhammad said the government should narrow the scope of the Official Secrets Act to widen the availability of information for the public as an effort to promote transparency.

“Information on directly negotiated contracts can be released to the public and only matters related to national security are protected.

“The government also could provide regular public updates on the status of pending high profile cases while giving a mandate for the Auditor-General’s Report to be debated in Parliament and make the National Audit Department accountable only to Parliament,” he said.

On the global front, Muhammad said the index revealed that most countries made limited progress in tackling corruption in 2020, while two-thirds of the countries measured scored below 50 out of 100.

“The pandemic Covid-19 is not just a health and economic crisis but a corruption crisis too.

“Countries with a higher level of corruption are the worst perpetrators of rule of law and democratic breaches while managing the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.