Vigorous efforts by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in combating corruption and abuse of power for the past months across the states should be commended. Majority of the arrests, charges and convictions involved public officials who were entrusted by the people to carry out their duties according to the law and for the benefit of the country.
Corrupt practices in Malaysia are very structural and controlled by the super entity, Ministry of Finance at top of a core-periphery structure with layers of controlled entities such as Government-Linked Investment Company (GLIC), State’s Investment Corporation and many other Government-Linked Companies (GLCs), Public-Linked Companies (PLCs) or Public Entities, Foreign Investments, Private Companies and Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).
Despite of the recent discovery of scandalous financial crime in Malaysia, Malaysians’ participation in this issue is still low and hampered due to two main reasons: Firstly, the absence of Freedom of Information Act and comprehensive laws on asset declaration hinder the public from obtaining information about the wealth of public officials, utilization of taxpayers’ money, procurement processes, national expenditures and transactions by the Ministry of Finance and its controlled entities. On asset declaration, only Penang and Selangor have implemented this policy for elected representatives, but only on a voluntary basis. This should be applied mandatorily on all public officials to prevent conflict of interest and illicit enrichment of the public’s money.
Secondly, Official Secrets Act 1972, a draconian law that broadly empowers the government to declare any document to be “secret”. The censorship of information under the OSA happens particularly in trade and defense sectors, even in smaller sectors like municipal councils or government departments. For example, the world’s biggest financial scandal, 1MDB, although it is of a public interest, the public is obstructed from obtaining information or discussing the issue as it is classified as secret under the Act. Meanwhile, the annual budget and expenditure for defense and security do not meticulously itemize secret, operating and development items and highly classified even to the members of legislative. For instances, the allegation of corruption in Scorpene Submarine deal, Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) and Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) indicates a clear need to limit a blanket classification under the Act.
Unequivocally, mere existence of the laws cannot stand by itself, it must be enacted hand in hand with public education and awareness which C4 as one of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) is taking up to reclaim the right to access information and hold the public officials accountable.
In light of this, , Kleptocrazy Malaysia, a campaign coordinated by C4 as one of the leading civil society organizations in partnership with other sectors of society, aims to provide an interactive platform for Malaysians to be actively and directly involved in combating corruption and abuse of power in three ways:
Firstly, to track public officials’ unexplained wealth or assets by taking photos or videos and submitting them online. Secondly, to cultivate a culture of whistleblowing and public-oriented reporting among the public. Thirdly, to get formal sources from the annual Auditor General’s reports on mismanagement, leakages and malpractices in the government sectors.