KUALA LUMPUR – Transparency International – Malaysia (TI-M) viewed the newly released Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index (GI 2015) with concern where Malaysia scored an overall “D” indicating a high vulnerability to defence corruption despite doing slightly better than the GI 2013 survey where Malaysia had a “D-”.
The Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index (GI) assesses the existence and effectiveness of institutional and informal controls to manage the risk of corruption in defence and security institutions and of their enforcement. GI 2015 measures the levels of corruption risk in national defence establishments, and scores from A (the best) to F (the worst). These bands are based on scores on an assessment consisting of 77 questions—for each question, the government was scored from 0 - 4. The percentage of marks overall determined which band the government was placed in and were scored in five risk areas namely (a) Political risk, (b) Financial risk, (c) Personnel risk, (d) Operations risk, and (e) Procurement Risk.
TI-M is pleased to note that the Malaysian Government has participated and completed a government review of the GI 2015 research, which shows a willingness to open dialogue with an international NGO on defence corruption issues.
With formal regulations governing the actions of military personnel and independent investigative organizations like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Malaysia is in a good place to build its anti-corruption framework. But significant vulnerabilities to corruption persist as a result of a weak legislative scrutiny, opaque budgets, weak whistleblower protections, and insufficient anti-corruption training in institutions. TI-M suggests the following recommendations:-
1) Strengthen Legislative Scrutiny
Currently the legislature plays no formal role in scrutinising defence policy or spending. The legislature is given no detailed information on the defence budget, including secret items, beyond the aggregated sums for operating and development expenditure leading to lack of scrutiny regarding defence spending and procurement decisions.
To address issues relating to political corruption risk, TI-M recommends that the government to establish a parliamentary committee task specifically with duties to oversight all aspects on the state defense and security sector. This committee should have the power to access a fully detailed defence budget and internal audit reports; be able to call expert witnesses and scrutinise defence agencies and institutions; meet regularly and publish reports on its activity.
2) Enhance Budget Transparency
A budget is submitted to Parliament; however, it is lacks sufficient detail regarding specific expenditures. Furthermore, Parliament has only a limited amount of days to approve the budget as a whole, which precludes effective scrutiny.
TI-M recommends that the government publish an annual defence budget that includes detailed information on expenditure across functions including research and design, training, salaries, acquisitions, disposal of assets, maintenance and personnel expenditures and appropriately lengthens the time that budget items can be discussed by the Parliament.
3) Enhance Anti-Corruption Measures across Operations
According to interviewees, there is no comprehensive anti-corruption training – aside from ad-hoc integrity talks. An Integrity Plan Manual exists, but it is insufficient preparation for commanders on deployment and there is evidence that corruption is a high risk issue for the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).The Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein himself concurred that the credibility of the personnel, graft and information leakages are issues which need to be studied in this area.
TI-M recommends Malaysia adopts an operational doctrine which specifically recognises corruption risks as a strategic operational issue; provides comprehensive and systematic training and guidance for commanders and personnel on corruption risks faced in operations, including in contracting, and deploy trained professionals capable of monitoring corruption in the field who regularly report while on mission, with these reports made available to the public, at least in summary form.
TI-M also urges the Defence Minister to address the weaknesses of Esscom’s roles and functions to strengthen maritime security in the eastern part of Sabah covering four (4) perspectives namely software, hardware, human resources, and intelligence.
It is strongly urged that the Ministry of Defense SOP for equipment procurement be based on open tenders. It is only appropriate to procure and place several radars in various islands in Esscom areas instead of installing one big radar at one area which is very costly and ineffective to monitor the vast areas to be combed.
As it is repeatedly said “talk is cheap” - what we need now is action to implement concrete steps guided by the above recommendations ironically, to protect our defence spending from those who would abuse it for their own personal gain.