KUALA LUMPUR: The government has been urged to formulate new legislation to enforce transparent asset declaration among politicians holding public office and civil servants in high decision-making positions.
The Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) today said periodic public disclosures of personal assets would deter unexplained wealth from ill-gotten gains, especially in light of a spate of probes undertaken by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in recent months.
Its executive director Cynthia Gabriel said the string of corruption cases indicate a “serious and alarming status quo” involving public officials’ abuse of power and misconduct.
“It points to serious structural flaws in the system that have allowed these loopholes to be manipulated for massive fraud and swindling of public funds,” she said, adding that the issue was plaguing Malaysia’s growth and competitiveness.
She said the declarations should be accessible to the public as part of their right to know and be informed, instead of being made only internally within the government.
“By hook or by crook, to regain the public’s confidence in the government’s integrity, the laws on asset declaration in Malaysia should be improved significantly without fear or favour to detect conflicts of interest or illicit enrichment,” she said in a statement.
“Declaring assets behind doors as what Malaysia is practising at the federal level now does not suffice, it reeks of secrecy and opacity instead of promoting transparency.
Gabriel said Malaysia could emulate the best practices adopted by Indonesia.
“Apart from its comprehensive regulatory framework of asset declaration targeting senior leaders and those in at-risk positions in Law No 43 of 1999 on the Civil Service Ordinance, the wealth reports are made accessible to the public and non-compliance will result in administrative sanctions,” she said.
She also pointed to South Korea in Article 4 of its Public Service Ethics Act 1993 legislation, and Thailand in its Organic Act on Counter Corruption 1999 requiring all high-ranking public officials, their spouses, and many of their ascendants and descendants to disclose ownership of property and shares in non-public business entities, she added.
She noted that Malaysia was a party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and was therefore bound to adopt Article 8(5) that required a public official to make an asset declaration.