Malaysia's CPI Rank has improved but three main thrusts of the Fighting Corruption NKRA still have gaping holes
In the recently released Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index 2012, Malaysia's ranking improved from 60 out of 183 countries in 2011 to 54 out of 176 countries in 2012.
While Malaysians may take some comfort in this temporary arrest in Malaysia's steady decline in our CPI ranking, one must keep in mind that this ranking of 54 is still worse than Malaysia's ranking of 43 out of 179 countries in 2007 and far worse than the ranking of 33 out of 102 countries in 2002 (See Table 1 below).
Table 1: Malaysia's CPI ranking, score and total number of countries in sample, 2001 to 2012
|Total No. of Countries||91||102||133||145||158||163||179||180||180||178||183||176|
Indeed, one should not take too much comfort in the fact that Malaysia improved in the ranking because it overtook "luminaries" of "clean" government such as Jordan, Namibia, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Indeed, many developing countries that have far lower per capita GDP compared to Malaysia continues to do better than us in the CPI rankings including Rwanda (50), Bhutan (33) and Botswana (30), not to mention the newly industrialized economies (NIEs) in Asia namely South Korea (45), Taiwan (37), Hong Kong (14) and Singapore (5).
More worryingly, the three major thrusts of the Fighting Corruption National Key Results Area (NKRA) under the Government Transformation Program (GTP) - namely, to strengthen the anti-corruption enforcement agencies and legislation, to tackle grand corruption and to reduce leakages from government procurement - continue to have gaping holes when it comes to delivery and execution.
For example, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission remains very much a toothless tiger which is dependent on the Attorney General to prosecute cases.
This explains why, despite numerous policy reports, allegations and investigative pieces made against the Chief Ministers of Sarawak and Sabah, most notably by the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), the Attorney General has refused to make any charges against these two BN leaders.
And as long as the MACC is not independent or seen as independent, even legislation such as the Whistleblowers Protection Act will not have any substantive long term effect on reducing corruption.
After all, this is an Anti-Corruption Commission which investigated a supposed RM2000 misallocation of funds case by a Selangor Exco Member which eventually led to the still unsolved death of the political aide of Ean Yong Han Wah, Teoh Beng Hock while the real "crocodiles" are left free to continue to devour the resources of the state.
This was the same MACC which investigated customs officer, Ahmad Sarbani, who also died from a fall while under its custody.
From a perception perspective, there is little doubt that the MACC has not been strengthened in such a way as to allow it to do its job, without fear or favor.
There is also no sign that grand corruption has been effectively tackled by the Fighting Corruption NKRA.
Nearly all of the cases which appear in the "Name and Shame" public database are small cases involving relatively "small fish".
It is of no surprise that the big fish continue to escape attention especially given statements like the one made by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Nazri Aziz, brushing aside the RM40m money laundering attempt by Michael Chia as a "political donation" to Sabah UMNO and to ignore evidence that the same Michael Chia had generously "lent" a half a million RM luxury hummer to his son.
Even the prosecution of the supposed big fish in the PKFZ RM12.6 billion scandal - namely former Transport Ministers Ling Liong Sik and Chan Kong Koy - have not been properly concluded leading one to wonder if these cases will follow in the footsteps of the cases against former Sabah UMNO Minister, Kasitah Gaddam, and former Perwaja chairman, Eric Chia, both of whom were charged with corruption with great fanfare prior to the 2004 general election but who were both subsequently released.
Last but definitely not least, there remain glaring exceptions to the efforts to reduce leakages in government procurement.
The release of the Auditor General's 2011 Report was delayed until two weeks into the budget debates making it difficult for MPs to raise important issues related to weak oversight and controls in government procurement.
Furthermore, no action has been taken by the MACC or the Attorney General in term of charging those responsible for mismanaging government procurement (including those infamous RM56,350 binoculars for the Marine Parks Department worth not more than RM1,940).
In addition, the government continues to operate under a cloud of secrecy in land deals that could have raise many billions of ringgit of revenue for the government but were instead sold at way below market value to a government agency, namely 1MDB.
Most recently, carpet dealer, Deepak Jaikishan, made explosive allegations against not only Selangor Wanita UMNO chief Raja Ropiaah Raja Abdullah, but also Prime Minister Najib himself, over a RM100m land for a contract to build a National Defense Research Center (Puspahanas), allegations which the Prime Minister have yet to respond to.
With such grievous and gaping holes in the fighting corruption initiatives and efforts, Malaysians cannot take any comfort in the slight improvement in the country's CPI ranking.
What Malaysians should take comfort in is the fact that Pakatan Rakyat leaders will continue to expose the corruption and abuses of power under the present BN government which show no signs of changing their old habits.
What Malaysians should take comfort in is the fact that the Pakatan Rakyat state governments, especially in Penang and Selangor, have shown how transparency and the responsible management of government resources can translate into increased surpluses and reserves while benefitting the larger public at the same time.
What Malaysians should take comfort in is the fact that the opportunity to vote out this corrupt BN government in the next general election will come very soon.
Only under a Pakatan government can the roots of corruption in this country that has been governed uninterruptedly by a bankrupt and corrupt BN be eradicated and the perception of a Malaysia that is increasingly less corrupt by grounded in reality.