The downward trend has continued for three years, and corruption watchdog Transparency International says this is a cause for concern.
KUALA LUMPUR: For the third consecutive year, Malaysia has shown a decline in its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score. Its 2011 score of 4.3 is slightly lower than the 4.4 recorded in 2010, and significantly lower than the government’s benchmark of 4.9.
Malaysia’s country ranking also declined to 60 of the 183 countries surveyed from 56 in 2010.
Although the CPI decline for the last two years is marginal (0.1 for 2010 and 2011), Prof Mohammad Ali Hassan, deputy president of Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M), opined that the lack of improvement is a cause for concern
“Although there are many things being carried out by the government, we are yet to see the perception index improve. Even with things like Corporate Integrity Pledge launched recently and other initiatives, there still isn’t a marked difference. I wonder why.
“Someone said this might have something to do with perceptions taking longer to materialise. But this is definitely a cause for concern for everyone,” he said.
The index scores 183 countries and territories from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean) based on perceived levels of public sector corruption. It uses data from 17 surveys that look at factors such as enforcement of anti-corruption laws, access to information and conflicts of interest.
Two-thirds of ranked countries scored less than 5. New Zealand ranked first, followed by Finland and Denmark. Somalia and North Korea (included in the index for the first time) were last.
‘A big wake-up call for MACC, Umno’
TI-M secretary-general Josie Fernandez said the score is a big wake-up call to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Umno leadership.
“For the last three years, we have seen a decline despite the efforts made by the government to address growing corruption in the country. This survey results will have implications on our economic development as a nation and country should the levels continue to dip.
“If you look at the countries at the top, you will find that many of them practise the Freedom of Information Act. Are we sending out wrong messages and that is why we are being perceived this way? There was an Arab Spring rising, I think we should be concerned if there is a monsoon here.
“We should be disappointed because previously Malaysia was a 5.0+ (in 2003 Malaysia stood at 5.3). We are in the company of Hungary, Kuwait, Cuba, Turkey, South Africa, Jordan – the 4- something club,” she added.
In the Asean grouping, Malaysia stood at number three while Singapore took top spot with a 9.3 score. At last place is Myanmar with a 1.5 score.
To this Fernandez, said: “Indonesia is moving up fast and showing good improvement mostly because of the political will of the country to improve itself in this area.”
The results were revealed at TI-M’s press conference on the release of the organisations 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Results and 2011 Corruption Barometer (CB) Results.
‘Haul in the big fish’
The CPI is an expert survey which gets the opinions of business experts and leaders. A CB, however, is survey of the public. The sampling process involved 1,000 people interviewed nationwide. All aspects of interviewees such as location (urban and rural), gender, and education level were taken into consideration. The survey was conducted between Sept 12 and Oct 8.
“The survey found that police and political parties were deemed the most corrupt and 1.2% of those surveyed said they paid bribes compared to the 9% surveyed in 2010. A total of 60% of those interviewed trusted governments leader to fight corruption.
“When we asked them about personal experience of bribery, several candidates said they paid bribes to land officers/registry and permit services for the service of registration of land transfers.”
In response to the survey results, TI-M mentioned its observations to include that penalties for corrupt practices were not severe enough.
“Companies are not held liable when their employees commit corrupt act and enforcement and prosecution of petty corruption cases are increasing. There is also limited access to information (existing Official Secrets Act and lack of a Freedom of information Act), which contributes to a culture of secrecy and lack of transparency,” said Fernandez.
“It’s time to bring the big fish to court and convict them. Doing this will send a very strong message that the country will not tolerate corruption. Stop going after just the ‘ikan bilis’ (anchovies).”
She added that TI-M wants a completely independent MACC.
“Sometimes it seems that they are turning one head and looking at Putrajaya,” she said, alluding to where the offices of the government are located.
“The MACC has to report to Parliament. An improvement should also be seen in the protective framework to encourage more whistleblowers to come forward,” she said.