CPI drop deeply disappointing

AS the former president of Transparency International Malaysia and now an honorary commissioner in the MACC, I am deeply disappointed at Malaysia's poor performance in the International Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

We have dropped seven places from 55 to 62 out of 180 countries.

Our CPI score has declined to 47/100, well below the perceived passing mark of 50/100.

This is the worst result in the last five years. It's not only deeply disappointing, but gravely disturbing and damaging to Malaysia's aspirations to build the image of a developed or high-income nation by 2020.

Why did the CPI fall so fast?

MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, the MACC itself and indeed the government and the minister in charge must be very upset with the shocking CPI results.

The causes of the fall of the CPI have been partially provided frankly by Dzulkifli himself as an immediate and knowledgeable response.

He claims that it's the overall perception of the country. It's not corruption per se in its narrow concept, but the decline in good governance. He is surely right.

This means that too much politicking, growing racial and religious intolerance, wastage of public funds, a weakening of morality and some big scandals, are also responsible for the bad CPI results. And don't forget the emerging money politics rearing its ugly head.

All the good work done by the MACC to robustly fight corruption has been negated by the apparent inability to do more to contain grand corruption. Although medium-sized and petty corruption could have been reduced, it is the grand corruption that matters in the view of Transparency International in Berlin.

What can be done?

There are many recommendations made by TI Malaysia and other NGOs that have been presented and pushed for a long time. But they have been dashed aside in the hope that we can combat corruption within the current framework of governance. This mild approach can't achieve much as the latest depressing CPI results have shown.

What is needed are more radical and meaningful structural reforms. For example, the MACC should be made responsible only to Parliament and report directly to Parliament. The Whistle Blowers Act must be improved. This will encourage more whistle blowers to come out without fear of being charged.

In that case, who would want to be a whistle blower? Who would have trust and amanah in the struggle against corruption?

The MACC should also be a more independent body, with full powers to hire and fire its staff who would not be beholden to government employment. There are many other global best practices to adopt – if we are serious to combat corruption more effectively.

There is no need for the MACC to ask the government for feedback or direction on what to do next to get out of this corruption trap.

The MACC is fully aware about what has to be done. Let's hope the MACC will give Cabinet a full and honest appraisal on what has gone wrong and what needs to be done to prevent further deterioration.

Then let the rakyat judge the future direction to fight corruption which is causing inflation and undermining national unity and destroying our national soul.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies