Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pemandu Defends Government's Anti-Corruption Track Record

Pemandu must stop digging a deeper hole for itself in defending the Government's poor performance against corruption



It is sad and almost comical for the current administration's leading agency to be tripping over itself repeatedly to demonstrate, however insignificantly, that the Government is delivering improvements in its fight against corruption.

In the latest Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) calculations, Malaysia’s corruption index score declined to its record lowest levels from 4.5 last year to 4.4 out of 10. At the same time, Malaysia’s ranking still remains the same as last year, at 56 out of 178 countries, the worst in our history after falling from 47th in 2008 and our recent best of 33rd in 2002.

However, in response, Pemandu has responded with an official statement yesterday which essentially stated that while Tl's Index had shown “a slight reduction”, the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook showed an improvement in index from 5.2 in 2009 to 6.3 in 2010. In addition, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy's (PERC) Asian Intelligence Newsletter showed in improvement in index from 3.6 in 2009 to 4.6 in 2010 while the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report indicated an improvement in index from 4.5 in 2009 to 4.6 in 2010.

The statement issued by Director of Communications of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) of Pemandu, Alexander Iskandar Liew added that "if we take an average score of the four surveys, it is clear that Malaysia's index has improved from 4.45 in 2009 to 4.975 in 2010. It is in the context of the above that we in Pemandu are saying that the NKRA's efforts in addressing corruption are on the right track...However, if one were to look at the outcome of the other three surveys on corruption in Malaysia by (those) reputable organisations, then the score clearly shows that there are improvements.”

I almost feel sorry for Pemandu for having come up with such a statement. Firstly, it is a case of picking and choosing only surveys which are favourable towards themselves to highlight.

But more importantly, these surveys have already been taken into consideration by TI's CPI. For Malaysia's index scores, the results from 9 different surveys including the IMD, PERC and WEF's reports have been imputed. Attempting to paint a fake positive picture by averaging the TI score and the 3 other surveys is an obvious case of double counting the favourable surveys.

Hence, Pemandu is either trying to pull a fast one on the rakyat, or perhaps, they should have a refresher course on mathematics and statistics to avoid such embarrassing schoolboy errors in the future.

Pemandu needs to face up to the reality that things have not changed much over the past year despite many superficial attempts to improve transparency and accountability.

Despite the call for public disclosure over the government's privatisation projects in the GTP, such information has not been forthcoming, for example the RM628 million MATRADE Centre project which was awarded without any open tender. Many government-related projects under the ETP are expected to be awarded without any competitive bids, such as the MRT and the high-speed rail projects.

The half-hearted attempts at government procurement transparency via the “MyProcurement Portal” shows up its ineffectiveness. For example, despite having a procurement budget of nearly RM3 billion, only 8 contracts worth RM15.3 million have been published for the Ministry of Rural & Regional Development. Worse, these contracts have been published since April when the portal was launched, without additional updates since!

TI's statement on Malaysia's “achievements” is telling.
Although positive steps have been taken, there have been problems with implementation and lack of confidence-building improvements, indicating insufficient political will to eradicate corruption. For example, there are glaring items of grave concern, such as generally no “big fish” being brought to book, poor progress in identifying and prosecuting culpable persons in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fiasco, No Further Action by the Attorney-General against those implicated in judicial appointment tampering (“Lingam tapes”) despite the Royal Commission’s findings and recommendations, the continuing and snowballing practice of awarding mega projects and contracts without open tenders or competitive bidding, and no IPs implemented to date.
It's time for Pemandu to stop attempting to paint a brighter picture on the fight against corruption that it actually is. Instead, it should receive Transparency International's report with an open heart and figure out more effective ways to prevent corruption and help the Government find its political will to fight and punish corruption.
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