Wednesday 25 January 2017 Kuala Lumpur – Transparency International (TI) the global anti-corruption coalition has released its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), an annual survey measuring the perceived level of corruption in 176 countries in the world. Overall the CPI has fared worse in 2016 compared to 2015’s results. The survey revealed that Malaysia shares 55th spot with Croatia, and the CPI score has declined from 50 to 49 , on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupted) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). Denmark and New Zealand came in as joint first places as “clean” countries, while Somalia with a score at 10 came in last, preceded by South Sudan that scored 11. 69 per cent of the 176 countries on the CPI 2016 scored below 50, exposing how massive and pervasive public sector corruption is around the world. This year more countries declined in the index than improved.
This sad showing by Malaysia needs to be urgently addressed.
There is a Chinese Proverb which says “If the upper beam is not straight, the lower ones will go aslant”. To keep a system “clean” and effective, a country’s top leader must send a clear signal that he/she is committed to eradicate corruption. The tone at the top is essential for an effective governance by not only “talking the talk,” but also “walking the walk”, and to demonstrate unwavering integrity as a model for citizens to follow. Building values among public officials through formal training is no doubt is very helpful but ultimately values are most effectively instilled through education framework and societal pressure. The missing “exemplary leadership from above” together with a cultural environment where corruption is a normal way to get things done may explain why the current value/ethics training remains formalistic and may not have practical impact on the behaviour of public officials. New and advanced approaches to ethics/value training should be promoted, and that the quality of such training should be improved. TI-M recommends that the following groups should be targeted for ethics training: 1) all new public officials should be provided with ethics training 2) senior public officials in management positions and 3) public officials in areas of risk should also be trained on ethics. Public officials should be perceived to be – independent from private influence and political interference as it is the most important foundation for a strong institution.
To tackle corruption on a global scale, we cannot afford solely to rely on the brave actions of a few whistle-blowers. Open data can become a powerful weapon in tackling all forms of corruption. Transparency not only can deter and detect corruption, but also safeguard the integrity of the government. Public should be granted a general right of access to government records especially when it is relevant to public interest. The Panama Papers leak serves as a timely reminder that knowledge is power, and access to and the use of data is fundamental for tackling cross regional corruption. Malaysia should be implementing freedom of information laws as well as public asset and conflict of interest disclosures. In this regard the establishment of a register of beneficial ownership of companies is crucial as TI-M has said many times.
When people complain about corruption, they sometimes conveniently forget that for every bribe taken by a public official, one is given by a member of the private sector. Hence, addressing the behaviour of the private sector needs to be one of the key components of effective anti-corruption strategies. Malaysian Government should adopt the newly approved ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management System (ABMS) and make it a pre-requisite for all major government suppliers to have been certified with this ISO. Of course certification with ISO 37001 will not guarantee that no bribery will occur in relation to an organisation but at least the organisation would have been forced to implement reasonable and proportionate measures designed to prevent bribery.
Following from the above Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) calls for the Malaysian Government to take the bull by its horns and implement the following recommendations immediately in order to eliminate corruption completely:-
- The government and the country leader must provide the leadership with strong political will to drive the message of zero tolerance for graft and “walk the talk”.
- Public central registries of company beneficial ownership should be established.
- Ethical conduct of civil servants should be enhanced through effective education and training.
- Introduction of the corporate liability provision into current legislation and also make ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management System a pre-requisite for all government suppliers.
- Making the government more transparent by introducing access to information laws at federal and state level and public officials to provide assets disclosure thus enabling Malaysia to be counted as a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
- The cost of mega projects should be transparent and monitored to prevent unreasonable profit margins which always suggest there is an “unseen hand” behind who gets the project. Middle-man “agents” who promote themselves as being able to procure government contracts should be eliminated. Long term public utility services where appropriate should be handled directly by government agencies rather than farmed out to private contractors who then adopt a “rent seeking” mentality and regularly pay bribes to maintain such contracts.
- To ensure integrity at the prosecution level there should be clear separation between the roles of the Attorney General and the Public Prosecutor – the former acts as legal advisor to the government but the latter should be entirely independent to prosecute whoever is suspected to have committed a crime regardless of how high the suspect may be in the hierarchy of government.
Fighting corruption is a collective responsibility – people need to say no to corruption on every level and the government needs to respond sincerely to the challenge.
“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
Dato’ Akhbar Satar
Transparency International Malaysia
Transparency International-Malaysia is an independent, non-governmental and non-partisan organisation committed to the fight against corruption.
Note to Editors: For clarification on any and all official statements from Transparency International – Malaysia (TI-M), kindly refer to its President, Dato’ Akhbar Satar (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to its Secretary-General, Dr Muhammad Mohan (email@example.com)