Malaysia ranked 54 among 168 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia ranked 54 among 168 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2015 with a score of 50 out of 100.

This is a drop from rank 50 out of 175 countries in CPI 2014 with a score of 52 out of 100.

Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) president Datuk Akhbar Satar said the two-point drop is significant and can be attributed to the issues surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

"1MDB is one of the reasons, others like the transfer of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers, the sacking of the Special Branch officer, the raiding of MACC offices.

"These are among the things that contributed to the rankings," Akhbar told a press conference at the launch of CPI 2015 at the Royal Selangor Club.

He said the government must have strong political will to combat corruption and the public, too, must come to expect the highest standards of ethics, conduct, and accountability from the judiciary, executive, and legislative branches.

Akhbar said the Malaysian public is typically averse in reporting wrongdoing for fear of getting themselves into trouble, but this behaviour has far reaching consequences.

"The Malaysian public usually don't want to get into trouble and report (corruption). We think of ourselves first and not the country," he said.

In contrast, Akhbar said, citizens of Thailand and Indonesia seem much more enthusiastic in reporting corruption, leading to their rise in CPI rankings even though they are still far below Malaysia.

His recommendation to improve the ranking were:

* the MACC be reformed to achieve independence from the executive arm so that it can perform its duties without undue interference.

* financial autonomy for the MACC by letting Parliament allocate it's funds instead of having the government do it.

* comprehensive political funding laws be formed but the t laws are only as good as its enforcement, which is currently lacking in Malaysia.

* the government must rid itself of the culture of secrecy and form laws regarding the freedom of information and asset declaration.

When asked to comment on the Attorney General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali clearing Najib of all wrongdoing in the SRC International probe, Akhbar said he cannot comment as he had not read the investigative papers and it is best to ask Apandi.

He said Parliament can petition Apandi to release the MACC investigation papers but he still has discretionary powers to prosecute according to the Federal Constitution.

"The public may not be happy with the investigation result, but the AG has discretionary powers in prosecution in the Federal Constitution," Akhbar said.

Commenting on the CPI, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low said the government views the decline seriously but assured that policies are being implemented to better fight graft.

"The government wishes to assure the public that progressive transformation to improve governance through structural changes and process reforms are ongoing.

"Although many of these measures will only become increasingly visible to the public in the near future as their implementation progresses and is more embedded into the delivery system," Low said in a statement.

He added that the government also recognises the urgent need to regulate political funding and will also strengthen enforcement agencies in terms of capacity, powers, and independence.