KUALA LUMPUR: As 2019 draws to a close, it will be interesting to know how far Malaysia has scaled the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for the year, given what can be regarded as the government’s aggressive campaign to rid the country of graft.

Transparency International, the global anti-corruption organisation, is scheduled to release the 2019 CPI next month. The annual survey that looks at the perception of corruption in 180 countries had moved Malaysia one notch to 61st position in 2018.

“I am convinced Malaysia will be able to move three steps up in the CPI,” said criminologist Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar.

The new government of Pakatan Harapan (PH), in trying to keep with its election pledge, has been relentless in taking measures to get rid of corruption in Malaysia.

It has set in place policies and bodies to ensure that it reaches its objective, leaving no stone unturned in pushing the agenda to make the country corruption-free.

The National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC) was set up to coordinate and monitor all activities related to governance, integrity and combating graft. It is also responsible for planning, formulating strategies and evaluating policies in ensuring all government affairs adhere to the principles of good governance, integrity and zero-tolerance towards corruption.

The person in charge of this centre is none other than Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, a former chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

PH also wants its MPs to be clean and, as such, has required them to declare their assets in keeping with a parliamentary motion requiring all MPs to declare their assets. The information on the matter is available online for public access at mydeclaration.sprm.gov.my.

The government has also implemented a no-gift policy, meaning Cabinet ministers are not allowed to accept gifts of more than RM500 in value except flowers, food and fruits.

A number of key agencies originally under the Prime Minister’s Department now report to Parliament. These entities include the MACC; Election Commission; Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and National Audit Department.

To aid its task of combating corruption, the government has also set up a special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption and formed the National Anti-Financial Crime Centre (NAFCC).

In January this year, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) 2019-2023 carrying the theme Breaking the Corruption Chain, reflecting the seriousness of the government in addressing graft.

The GIACC, in collaboration with other government agencies, is spearheading the implementation of the plan which was developed to set a practical goal based on initiatives to be taken by every government and private agency to address corruption, integrity and governance issues over the next five years.

The icing on the cake must surely be the appointment of Latheefa Koya, known for her fearless, no-nonsense approach, as the new chief commissioner of the MACC in June this year. She took over from Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull who shortened his contract that was due to end on May 17, 2020.

Soon after her appointment, lawyer Latheefa declared: “Everyone is entitled to question, criticise, or express their opinion, but my job is clear - to go after corruption.”

Akhbar Satar said the case after case being exposed is a positive sign that much more can be achieved if the government is bent on combating corruption.

The government efforts against corruption have begun to bear fruit.

Within a year of its rule, from May 2018 to April 2019, some 1,230 arrests related to corruption were made.

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok, in a statement issued in conjunction with International Anti-Corruption Day on Dec 9, said that with the large number of corruption cases, Malaysia has begun to clear its name from corruption scandals in the eyes of the world.

Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said uncontrolled corruption, unless addressed, can destroy the economy of the country.

He proposed education on the prevention of corruption to be included in the school curriculum.

“Unless this is done, the decline in noble and social values will become a serious matter in Malaysia,” he said. — Bernama