Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) supports the call by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the former finance minister and current Gua Musang MP on all Cabinet members and federal lawmakers to declare their assets and liabilities.
It is very appropriate that the call to fight corruption is coming from a member of the ruling party. That call was also echoed and made by Tengku Razaleigh in September 2013 which TI-M supported in one of our earlier press statements. TI-M has for many years repeatedly called for transparency and full public disclosure of assets of elected and public officials, as this goes a long way towards improving the confidence of Malaysian citizens and foreign investors in the integrity, accountability and good governance of the government.
TI-M notes that political parties were ranked as the most corrupt among top six key institutions in Malaysia, ahead of the police and civil servants based on the Malaysian Corruption Barometer (MCB) 2014. With political parties being perceived as the institution/organisation worst affected by corruption based on (MCB) 2014, to counter this perception it is even more important for such entities and connected individuals to declare their assets
TI-M strongly urges more Members of Parliament to step forward and join Tengku Razaleigh in voicing their concerns in the fight against corruption. Similarly, TI-M lauds Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali for making it mandatory for state executive councillors to publicly declare their assets as this has been part of Pakatan Rakyat's (PR) policy and was done once before in 2008.
One of the first steps, as suggested by Tengku Razaleigh, is to have ministers declare their assets not only to the Prime Minister but to the public. TI-M would like to add to the list that senior civil servants and heads of departments and agencies who have authority over administrative and financial matters should do the same. This move will allow citizens to make right judgments regarding the integrity and probity of individual members of parliament, including information on members’ asset disclosures, non-parliamentary income, including interest, dividends and in-kind benefits.
This issue has become more apparent nowadays as the question of averting corruption and questioning the high net worth and rich lifestyles of various personalities have become a favourite topic of conversation in our country. Failing to do this step may contribute to further negative impact on the perception of corruption in our country, Malaysia.
While the declaration of assets should not only be done periodically and kept on record by an independent body but it is appropriate to have forensic accounting experts and investigators to monitor the assets too. An asset profiling system should be introduced soon to determine how much assets personnel are expected to have, based on their positions and years of service. Asset profiling include those of their spouses and dependents along with any business interest and any foundations or other bodies or institutions they may be part of.
Our government should also amend the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009 to close loopholes and enforce declaration of assets by government leaders without requiring a prior investigation. The fact that MACC does not have the power to call for asset declaration without initiating a prior corruption investigation is one of the loopholes that are open for abuse. Our Government must show stronger political will and amend the law, and get the leaders and all politicians to declare assets to better fight corruption.
As such, it becomes very necessary for these politicians and public servants to emulate the good examples set by some of our pioneering politicians - irrespective of their political affliction - and go up one notch in fighting crime, lowering government and household debts and going all out to fight corruption, both in word and deed. It has to start from the very top!