Malaysia’s anti-corruption efforts improved significantly after Pakatan Harapan won the 2018 general election and formed the government, a new World Bank report concluded.
The “Enhancing Government Effectiveness and Transparency: The Fight Against Corruption” report said Malaysia’s performance on international indicators and rankings on governance, accountability and transparency all rose as a result of ensuing reforms by the short-lived administration.
“One of the first steps in this effort was to set up the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC), as secretariat of the Special Cabinet Committee for Anti-Corruption (JKKMAR), reporting directly to the prime minister.
“The GIACC, in consultation with other agencies and departments, formulated and launched the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NAPC) and is currently overseeing its implementation.
“Early initiatives of the NACP include mandatory asset declaration for Ministers in the Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Directive on the roles and responsibilities between ministers and secretaries-general to improve the accountability framework of the administration,” it said.
The report also commended the Malaysian government’s resolve to take swift action on corruption scandals, as seen in high-profile criminal cases still being pursued in court.
“The strong mandate, independence and resources accorded to the GIACC and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to carry out their roles and functions constitute an important step towards the strengthening of institutions.
“The commitment outlined in the 5-year national plan around anti-corruption enabled the reforms to bear early results.
“The government moved swiftly to follow up on some of the big scandals like the 1MDB, Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), KWAP (Statutory Body for Public Sector Pension) and Tabung Haji (Haji Pilgrims Fund Board) to name a few,” it said, adding that the efforts were followed by the arrest of several political leaders and figures involving the highest echelon of leadership who were later charged with various criminal offences.
As a testament to anti-corruption reforms implemented, the report also cited several significant improvements Malaysia had achieved on international rankings, with the country’s ranking improved from 61 in 2018 to 51 in 2019 on Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
Other achievements included a 20-point rise in 2018 from 40 points in 2017 to 60 points on the Edelman Barometer on Trust in Government while Press Freedom also saw an improvement from being ranked 145 in 2018 to 123 in 2019.
Malaysia also moved from 15 to 12 in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 Ranking while the Asian Corporate Governance Association (ACGA) placed Malaysia 4th out of 12 Asian economies in 2018, up from 7th place in 2016.
Finally, the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) gave Malaysia a marked improvement score for 2020 for improvements in electoral process and pluralism, where it received 9.17 out of 10 in the Democracy Index. It had scored only 7.75 in 2018.
The report stated that Malaysia has also been recognised for its efforts to pursue corporate governance reforms and broader institutional reforms that complemented the anti-corruption and governance reforms agenda.
“Based on the ACGA Corporate Governance Watch 2018, the aggregate company scores moved most significantly for Malaysia, where improvements in the Enforcement sub-category and optimism about political change drove scores up 7 percent from 2016,” it added.
The report then listed three takeaways from Malaysia’s effort to combat corruption and improving governance.
It said the first was a well-functioning institutional framework that provides for checks and balances in government was crucial.
“When the anti-corruption and governance bodies were accorded more powers and resources to deliver their mandate without undue political interference, the message and intentions were clear.
“Grand corruption cases could be investigated with greater autonomy and independence and brought to trial,” it added.
The second being a strong support and a clear mandate from the top leadership was a prerequisite to pursue difficult reforms.
Last but not least, the report said it was important to have a broader coalition of reformers that is not limited to public institutions and other formal institutions of government.
“The role played by civil society groups, the media, businesses, academia, international partners and other concerned parties also complimented the efforts of the MACC and GIACC to combat corruption.
“Their involvement was not just on the technical front; at times they also provided the needed support to keep the reform agenda on track,” it added. – MMO