Friday, July 12, 2013

PEMANDU, So Where Are The "Radical" Reforms?


We welcome the statement by Performance Management and Delivery Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department (Pemandu) which admitted that the Government has not done enough to battle corruption and that “radical reforms” are needed.  This comes after the latest Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) report which showed that the people's perception of the government's effectiveness in combatting corruption has plunged significantly from 49% previously in 2011 to a shocking low of 31%.

Director of Anti-Corruption NKRA of Pemandu, Ravindran Devagunam said Pemandu acknowledged the results, saying “the survey clearly shows that what we have done is not enough. We need to intensify efforts and continue to push for improvements across the social, political and business arenas.”  This is a complete reversal from earlier in April this year, when Ravindran’s fellow NKRA director Datuk Hisham Nordin told Bernama, that the NKRA has exceeded the target of the KPI set to fight corruption in the country.

In the same statement, Ravindran said among the new measures being implemented are that “Ministers are currently required to declare their assets to the prime minister as well as to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)”.  In addition, Special Officers to the Ministers would declare their assets to their respective minister as well as to MACC starting this year.

Pemandu has also suggested that “to increased transparency and accountability by ministries, Ravindran said the Auditor-General’s Performance Audit Report would be tabled at every Parliament sitting instead of just once a year.”

All of the above are fine proposals, but they are hardly radical, and clearly do not go far enough to demonstrate an impact against corruption.  When Penang state executive councillors are already publicly declaring their assets, the policy for Ministers disclose assets privately to the MACC falls far short of creating a ripple.  What’s more, the MACC to date has been part of the corruption problem and not the solution.  Hence until such a time when MACC is able to show its teeth and prove its worth, such assets disclosures to MACC will be viewed with disdain.

The move to table the Auditor-General’s Performance Audit Report at every Parliament sitting is certainly welcomed.  However, if the Government isn’t even able to resolve the scandals, and punish the responsible culprits arising from the annual tabling of the Auditor-General’s Report previously, how would increased frequency of the report improve the Government’s commitment to fight corruption?

Perhaps the least credible element of the statement was when Ravindran said the appointment of Datuk Paul Low, his superior as Minister of Governance and Integrity in the cabinet line-up is “a clear manifestation of the prime minister’s commitment towards fighting corruption”.

Ravindran said “with Low leading the coalition across ministries, NGOs, professional bodies and business and the Rakyat at large, we believed that the war on corruption will intensify, bringing about radical changes and deliver greater results.”
Such endorsement for Datuk Paul Low in itself will extinguish any flickering hopes Malaysians have for real transformation.

Datuk Paul Low, despite his past experience as the President of Transparency International, has at every practical opportunity become the apologist for the Najib administration, justifying continuity and not change.  He has gone on record to reject the Independnent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), public declaration of assets by Ministers, offering of the Public Accounts Committee chairmanship to the parliamentary opposition and even supported the return of Emergency Ordinance for detention without trial.

To quote The Malaysian Insider, Datuk Paul Low also “did not do himself any favours last night when reacting to the survey results that showed that the public’s confidence in the government’s anti-corruption effort had dropped sharply in 2012. Low said that corruption is a global menace and not unique to Malaysia.”

He said that “the Malaysian finding is consistent with the worldwide results where 36 countries viewed the police as the most corrupt.”  These answers are in sharp contrast to his statements when commenting on graft surveys in his capacity as TI-M president.  Then, he pointed out that the MACC and other reforms introduced by the government were ineffective in fighting corruption.

Let us be clear that Pakatan Rakyat wants to see the fight against corruption succeed.  However if the above measures are the standards by which Pemandu deem as “radical”, then certainly Najib’s administration’s attempts to reduce corruption will fail miserably.  Being “radical” in this case, doesn’t have to be “out of this world”.

The Government just needs political will to ensure open, competitive and transparent tenders for mega-privatisation contracts, public declaration of assets by Ministers, giving teeth to regulatory agencies such as MACC and IPCMC and promoting check and balance within the Parliamentary system.  The implementation of these measures will go a long way towards redeeming the decling corruption barometer in the country.
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