‘Tackle political patronage first’

(NST) KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's global ranking in battling corruption may drop if money politics and corporate funding of political parties are not dealt with immediately.

According to the newly launched Global Corruption Report 2009 by Transparency International (TI), there is much to be done to get rid of corruption in the private sector in Malaysia.

TI Malaysia president Datuk Paul Low said there were many outstanding issues on corruption in the private sector and one of its biggest bane was funding of political parties.

Malaysia is ranked 47th out of 180 countries in TI's Corruption Perception Index 2008, with a score of 5.1 on the corruption scale.

The next index is set to be released in November. (The scale is from 0 to 10 and the higher the number, the worst the level of corruption.)

"This is a big problem. If businessmen fund political parties, then someday, there will be payback time. That is where issues such as closed tenders come in," Low said yesterday.

He said while the private sector could provide the engine of growth and innovation, it could fail if its top managers had no integrity.

Although the relationship between government, civil service and the private sector had worked in solving economic problems, the issue of political patronage needed to be given priority, he added.

He said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission had yet to prove that it was any different from earlier set-up, the Anti-Corruption Agency.

"People perceived the ACA as not being independent and that it was selective in its prosecution.

"So, although they have commissioners and advisers from outside in its new structure, it is hard to say whether the MACC is any different from the ACA."

The 460-page report contains analysis on corruption and the private sector in 46 countries.

The Malaysian report raised several issues, including the Port Klang Free Zone scandal, which it called "one of the biggest scandals of the year", and the V.K. Lingam case in which prominent business people were linked to political parties.

On how well Malaysia would do in the next corruption index, Low said: "For Malaysia, it's up and down, and we are not sure if we are going to remain the same or go down. But in view of all that is happening, I can assure you that it will not go up."

However, Low commended Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for implementing the key performance indicator and placing importance on the fight against corruption.

"Malaysians feel corruption is becoming quite unbearable. They are fed up that things are not being done, hence the results of the last general election. But KPI shows that the government is prepared to confront this problem."

Low added that people must exercise their right to vote for a leader with integrity and buy products only from companies with good governance.

"The activism in Malaysia, however, has not reached that stage. Society cannot leave it to us or the government alone. We hope they become more aware and translate it into action."

He said Indonesia had shown a major improvement in the fight against corruption.

"Among the Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia has done well in terms of efforts to fight corruption. This showed especially after the new leadership took over. People believe in their leader," Low said, adding that Malaysians lacked confidence in the government to get rid of corruption.