My friend Ariff says he is not surprised with the latest findings of the Malaysian chapter of Transparency International – that political parties are the most corrupt among institutions in the country.He believes the trend started in the late eighties, with money politics in party elections.
“You know how much power you can have as a division leader or a state leader of a political party if your party is in power? I have a few friends and acquaintances in such positions and I know the benefits that come from it – such as contracts and shares in companies.”
According to the TI-M findings, political parties have overtaken the police as the institution perceived to be the most corrupt in Malaysia.
Reports said TI-M president Datuk Akhbar Satar admitted that the result was unique to Malaysia and that political parties in other countries were not perceived to be as corrupt as here.
"Yes, we don't see this happening in other countries. We are seeing this for the first time," he was quoted as saying after releasing the results of the first-ever Malaysian Corruption Barometer (MCB) 2014 yesterday.
He was also quoted as saying: "It is sad when political parties – being the driving force of democracy – are perceived to be the most corrupt institution."
A total of 2,032 respondents throughout Malaysia were interviewed face-to-face for the MCB.
Forty-five per cent of them perceive political parties as the most corrupt while 42 per cent see the police as most corrupt.
Thirty-one per cent of respondents see public officials and civil servants as being corrupt and 23 per cent see parliament and legislature as being corrupt.
The survey also found that 45 per cent of the respondents had been asked to pay bribes in the past. Most of the money was paid to speed things up, according to the respondents.
According to the MCB, the number of people willing to report corruption fell from 79 per last year to 51 per cent this year. Why? Forty-six per cent of those unwilling to report corruption said they were afraid of reprisals.
Akhbar was quoted as saying: "People are afraid that action might be taken against them for reporting the incident. They are not sure if the Whistleblower Act can actually work."
What this shows is that people don’t trust the authorities. Such a situation is not conducive to the eradication of corruption.
The MCB shows 38 per cent of Malaysians think the efforts of the government at fighting corruption are ineffective.
Certainly, more work needs to be done by the government. There has to be strong political will. Most Malaysians feel this will is lacking.
Ariff thinks the whole government system has been infected and that too many people would be affected if a serious effort was made to eradicate corruption.
But all is not bad. According to the MCB, the perception of corruption has improved compared with the findings of the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer.
The latest findings show that 30 per cent of Malaysians say the level of corruption had increased in the past two years whereas in the 2013 findings, the figure stood at 39 per cent.
Last year, 58 per cent of respondents said corruption was a serious problem in the public sector. Now it is 50 per cent.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been saying he is working to eradicate corruption. It was one of the election promises of the Barisan Nasional.
It was to create greater awareness of the evil of corruption that Najib himself participated in a three-kilometre Anti-Corruption Run in Kuala Lumpur last month. It was aimed at showing the people’s commitment towards a corruption-free nation. About 3,000 people participated.
It is good to have such campaigns to create greater awareness of the evils of corruption. But, what is really needed is action.
One is through educating people on values and morals. This, so far, does not seem to have worked.
Another is through putting the fear into people that anyone who offers or receives bribes, or who asks for a cut in projects – no matter who he or she is – will be hauled up by an impartial, independent agency. This, too, does not appear to be working.
We can have all the anti-corruption runs we want, but we will not be able to outrun corruption, or whittle it down to insignificance, if the government does not win back the trust of the people by proving it is really committed, and that those who provide information will be protected.