The fight against corruption has often been likened to fighting the mythical creature Hydra. Cut off one head and two more sprout out in its place. The point being that it is not easy to eliminate corruption.
But that is no excuse to let off in the fight against corruption – an issue that is of concern to most Malaysians, and which the chief executive officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), Dato’ Sri Idris Jala, stresses is a priority with his agency too.
As part of its efforts to tackle the problem head on, Malaysia is the only country in the world thus far to accept Transparency International’s Corruptions Perception Index (CPI) as a KPI. “And we make sure we are measured on the basis of this,” Idris told analysts and editors during a briefing session to announce the 2012 National Transformation Programme Annual Reports in Kuala Lumpur recently.
While he acknowledges that much still needs to be done to weed out corruption, Idris does point out that progress has been made and that should be recognised. For instance, 2012 was the first year, since Pemandu started, that Malaysia’s score in Transparency International’s CPI improved from 60 in 2011 to 54 in 2012. The score for Malaysia in 2012 improved to 4.9 out of 10 compared to 4.3 in 2011.
The game plan in Malaysia is to put in the basic building blocks to attack corruption where over time, the building blocks become a wall over corruption. These building blocks include the Whistleblowers Act which came into force in December 2010 where in 2012 11,665 reports were received. As the Act is new in Malaysia, the public is still in the process of understanding it. This unfamiliarity has resulted in most of the complaints received being about cleanliness issues which the public seems to link with corruption.
Other developments in the war against corruption include but are not limited too:
- Malaysia is also one of the few countries in the world to name and shame offenders. Currently there are 1,172 offenders with their names and photographs listed on the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) site. The US Embassy for one has found the list helpful in determining visa applications to the US.
- A total of 6,688 government contracts have been published online.
- Various agencies and private sector companies have signed Transparency International’s Integrity Pact which eschews any form of corrupt practise
- In response to public complains that it takes too long for the corrupt to be brought to justice, 14 corruption courts have been established to expedite the cases.
While progress has been made in the war against corruption, long held beliefs that corruption is rampant in Malaysia has resulted in the public quickly latching on to reports that highlight corruption in Malaysia as proof that no progress has been made. What is worrying is that this happens even when the reports do not paint an accurate picture.
At the briefing, Idris pointed out that Transparency Internationals CPI is made up of nine different independent surveys that measure various facets of corruption. Yet the Wall Street Journal carried an article with the headline, ‘Malaysia Tops Bribery Table’.
This was mischievous, to say the least because the report highlighted one question out of 17 questions in the Bribe Payers Survey, which is one of the nine surveys that Transparency International takes into consideration to come up with its CPI score for nations.
“I was amazed to see how this was blown up to become the main storyline, especially in social media” said Idris at the briefing, clearly still bemused at the selective reporting practised. “I accept that we have a long way to go to fight corruption but it would be good if the progress we have made is acknowledged too,” he said.
As anyone who has fought an uphill battle before will know, acknowledgement of progress is a great motivator to keep up ones energy and spirits in fighting the good fight. That is all Idris and PEMANDU are asking for.
This post was written by an editor of an online publication in Malaysia.