This week has been a great Public Relations triumph for MACC but a major setback for the war against corruption

This week has been a great Public Relations triumph for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) but a major setback for Malaysia’s war against corruption, particularly “Grand Corruption” by top political and public personalities.

How much of Malaysian public taxpayers’ money was spent for MACC to host the 6th International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA) and General Meeting 2012?

It was clearly well-spent for MACC and the Barisan Nasional Government from the harvest of superlative praises showered on Malaysia - which were all music to the ears of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the MACC officers, from the plaudits by the IAACA participants commending Malaysia’s “serious efforts” at tackling corruption to praises for the Prime Minister himself “as someone very serious about the priority he has given to fighting corruption”.

Those who do not know the true situation would be excused for thinking that Malaysia must be one of the top 20 if not top 10 countries in the annual Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking and score in terms of being least corrupt nations in the world.

But the facts tell a very different story.

The 2011 TI CPI released last December was in fact Malaysia’s worst international report card on the anti-corruption front in 17 years since the introduction of the annual TI CPI, both in ranking and score, plunging from No.23 placing in 1995 to the worst ever of No. 60, as well as registering the lowest-ever score of 4.3 when Malaysia scored 5.28 in 1995 and 5.32 in 1996!

Is such a dismal anti-corruption record something for the MACC to celebrate by playing host to the 6th International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA) and General Meeting 2012?

But apparently, this glaring blemish and in fact national shame for Malaysia and the MACC had also been look after, with the MACC arranging for a member of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy (MACA) international advisory board, Dmitri Vlassis, who is chief of the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to decry and discredit the TI Corruption Perception Index, dismissing it as “outdated as it is unable to accurately account for complexities in the countries it ranks”, “counter-productive” and “does not serve anyone’s purpose”.

Vlassis said each country responded differently in tackling corruption and as such, a country should be compared with itself and not others.

Even when comparing with itself and not others, the ineluctable fact is that the TI CPI 2011 is the worst ranking and lowest-ever score for Malaysia in 17 years, highlighting the tragic fact that corruption under Najib’s premiership is worse than the five years under Tun Abdullah and 22 years under Tun Mahathir!

Malaysia’s TI CPI ranking and score, which ranges between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt), from 1995 to 2011 are as follows:

Year CPI Rank CPI score
1995 23 5.28
1996 26 5.32
1997 32 5.01
1998 29 5.3
1999 32 5.1
2000 36 4.8
2001 36 5.0
2002 33 4.9
2003 37 5.2
2004 39 5.0
2005 39 5.1
2006 44 5.0
2007 43 5.1
2008 47 5.1
2009 56 4.5
2010 56 4.4
2011 60 4.3

It is indeed shocking and even outrageous that a senior official from the UN Office in Drugs and Crime (UNODC) could be calling on Malaysians to ignore the TI CPI 2011 on Malaysia’s 17-year worst-ever 60th ranking and lowest-ever 4.3 score.

What type of a United Nations anti-corruption officer is this?

Unlike MACC and anti-corruption globetrotters like Dimitri Vlassis, Malaysians remember that in 2004, the then new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced with great fanfare the National Integrity Plan with the five-year target to improve Malaysia’s TI CPI from 37th place in 2003 to at least 30th position in 2008 and the 5.2 CPI score for Malaysia in 2003 to at least 6.5 by 2008.

Malaysia not only failed to reach these TI CPI targets of at least 30th ranking and 6.5 score in 2008, we are now double the ranking at No. 60 with lowest-ever score of 4.3 in the 2011 TI CPI!

It is most worrying that neither the Najib administration nor MACC seems worried or concerned by the trend of Malaysia being left far behind other countries in the fight against corruption in the past 17 years, including countries which had been down the list of the TI CPI ranking behind Malaysia like China, Thailand, India and Indonesia.

China was ranked No. 40 with a CPI score of 2.16 in 1995. In 2011, China is ranked No. 75 with a CPI score of 3.6.

At the annual average rate of China’s improvement and Malaysia’s regression of their CPI score in the last 17 years, China will not only catch up but will leave Malaysia behind in the TI CPI, both in ranking and in score in a matter of four years – come 2015!

Other Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia and India are making major strides in the battle against corruption. Thailand, which was ranked No. 34 with CPI score of 2.79 in 1995 (out of 41 countries) is now ranked No. 80 (out of 183 countries) with an improved score of 3.4. India was ranked No. 35 with CPI score of 2.78 in 1995 is now ranked No. 95 with an improved score of 3.1.

Even Indonesia is making significant strides in the anti-corruption front. Ranked at the very bottom of No. 41 in 1995, with CPI score of 1.94, Indonesia is now ranked No. 100 with an improved CPI score of 3.0 in 2011.

The only other Asia-Pacific country to keep Malaysia company of being hit with a double whammy of a lower TI CPI ranking and score in the past 17 years is the Philippines - whose TI CP ranking was No. 36 with a score of 2.77 in 1997 and both indices fell 17 years later in the 2011 TI CPI being ranked No. 129 with a score of 2.6.

But the Philippines is looking forward to great improvements in its CPI ranking and score with the catching of several “big fishes” in the anti-corruption campaign of President Aquino, most notably the sacking of Chief Justice Renato Corona by the Philippines Senate impeachment court and the indictment of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, former Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos and Local Water Utilities Chair Prospero Pichay.

Only last Thursday, Gloria Arroyo was arrested at hospital and charged over a third case of plunder and corruption during her time in power. Today it is reported that government auditors reported that Philippines lost 101.82 billion pesos (RM7.6 billion) through misuse of state funds and assets during the latter years of Gloria’s graft-tainted presidential regime.

With Philippines joining other Asia-Pacific countries with the political will to fight corruption, particularly “big fish” or “grand corruption”, Malaysia will become the “sick man” in the Asia-Pacific in the war against corruption - with other countries making progress while Malaysia going backwards in the war against corruption.

How has the just-concluded 6th International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA) and General Meeting 2012 helped to formulate a strategy to ensure that Malaysia keep abreast with other Asia-Pacific countries in chalking up progress in the fight against corruption instead of being relegated as the “sick man” of corruption in Asia-Pacific to keep Myanmar company?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur