Friday, November 12, 2010

Corruption: Real or Perceived?

Corruption remains a sore point among Malaysians, to the point where it was actually included as a national KRA under the Government’s GTP program. PEMANDU is claiming that progress on this issue is on track:

Corruption NKRA on track

TRANSPARENCY International's corruption perception index on Malay­sia may have shown a slight reduction from 4.5 in 2009 to 4.4 this year but some of the component surveys of the CPI have been indicating improvements in 2010…

…While Pemandu acknowledges that if one were to look only at Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, there is a slight reduction, it means that "a lot more work has to be done".

"However, if one were to look at the outcome of the three component surveys on corruption, which has comparative data of 2009 and 2010 in Malaysia by reputable organisations, then the score clearly shows that there are improvements," he said…

…He said Pemandu sees that the current initiatives in themselves are "not sufficient" to achieve the full extent of the desired results and targets outlined by the Corruption NKRA.

"Clearly, more serious and effective actions would have to be taken in 2011, with greater intensity and focus on driving out corrupt practices. But the fact remains we are on the right track as indicated by the increase in score from IMD, WEF and PERC surveys," he said.

You can get more details here, which includes this nugget:

Initiatives in place to fight corruption

…The National Key Results Areas' (NKRA) Anti-Corruption Laboratory has set out targets, inspired by the public and measured by international standards.

The three targets are to:

  • Reduce corruption through enforcement and compliance.
  • Improve Malaysia's Transparency International Corruption Perception Index score.
  • Improve public perception of the integrity of the Government and civil service.

In implementing its near term strategies, the government will focus its efforts on the three areas most prone to corruption…

…Among the agencies are the Royal Malaysian Police, Customs, Immig­ration and Road Transport Departments. They were ranked by the business community and the public as having the lowest perceived integrity in the 2007 Malaysian Transparency Perception Survey.

I find it ironic that of the three targets, only one deals with actual corruption, and the other two with the perception of corruption.

My own feeling on this (and it’s an opinion, not necessarily factual) is that public perception of corruption is far higher than its actual incidence – for instance, we’re nowhere near Indonesia’s level of corruption (of the venal kind), and much closer to Singapore’s (yes, they do have some) than people would expect.

Having said that, at the level of development Malaysia is at, citizens demand and have a right to expect better standards of integrity from the elected government and the civil service.

So it’s a matter of not just doing the right things, but also to be seen doing the right things. In that sense, programs designed to cast some light on the doings of government departments and agencies can only help.

Just don’t expect these to actually have much of an effect on "real” corruption.


  1. Like the operations director of the Galas win asking that cabinet ministers declare their assets?

  2. That would be a good start. I'm not holding my breath waiting for it though.