Cut in MACC funding creates bad impression

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PETALING JAYA: The cut in the allocation for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Budget 2017 may create the perception that the government isn’t serious about fighting corruption, says a political analyst.

The allocation for MACC is RM216 million. Last year it was RM251 million and in 2015 it was RM294 million.

Speaking to FMT, Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said large amounts of money would be needed if the government were serious about fighting corruption, especially high-end corruption.

“We know that we need high-end technology like they have in Hong Kong if we’re going to fight corruption, and we also need training and outside expertise if we’re going to strengthen the MACC,” he said.

“How are you going to fight advanced forms of corruption like transnational corruption and money laundering if you decrease the allocation?”

With the cut, he said, an already critical public was likely to get the impression that the government was being two-faced when it claimed that it was serious about fighting corruption.

Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen agreed, saying the cut made it look as though MACC was being punished rather than rewarded for its recent successes, such as the arrests made in connection with the Sabah Water Department scandal.

“If you cut the budget of an agency that performs, you are sending a message to the public that you don’t approve of its work,” he said.

This apparent inconsistency was one of the reasons opposition MPs walked out of Parliament during Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Budget 2017 speech, according to Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.

She said Najib did not even bother to explain whether his administration had taken steps to plug the leakage of public funds or to fight corruption.

“The budget itself was not clearly explained,” she said. “For example, why is money prioritised a certain way? Why are funds taken away from key institutions, such as the MACC?”

Merdeka Center Director Ibrahim Suffian saw the cut from a different perspective, noting that the MACC was not the only institution that suffered a reduction in funding.

“The government is forced to reduce its expenditure and the cuts are across the board,” he said.

“For example, the allocation for universities was significantly cut compared to the previous year,” he added.

Budget 2017’s combined allocation for the 20 public universities’ operating expenditures is RM6.12 billion. This is a reduction of RM1.46 billion or 19.23 per cent from the previous allocation of RM7.57 billion.