The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) acknowledges the allocation in Budget 2021 for the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) as an important continuation from the previous year, but reiterate calls for more government transparency in the use of the funds, revealed during the tabling of Budget 2021 on 6 November.
The move to ensure the NACP will proceed, along with the recruitment of 100 Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers, is a right step towards further reducing corruption in Malaysia. Having said that, we assert that beefing up the number of personnel alone will not ensure its structural independence.
There needs to be more transparency in the use of funds by the government, especially when it comes to tabling the national Budget.
One pertinent example is the government’s reliance on foundations or “yayasan”. This is notable in the procurement of new laptops for schoolchildren, which will see government-linked companies participating in a pilot project to provide 150,000 students from 150 schools with laptops, with the project supervised by Khazanah Nasional-linked foundation Yayasan Hasanah.
What is the purpose of having a foundation oversee this project, when the Ministry of Education would be more knowledgeable about which schools would need the laptops, and be able to disburse the laptops accordingly? Why so many layers?
Furthermore, the annual returns are limited to the members of the foundation, and are not publicly available for review. Hence, it is impossible to know how much of these allocations would actually be used for charitable work.
Another point of concern here is whether or not this procurement will go through an open tender process. Without an open tender, the possibility of abuse remains inherent, that funds meant for students would instead be siphoned or that the tender would go to a company that may not be the best suited for the task.
Examples of this include how a number of companies were given contracts to provide equipment to the government to combat Covid-19, companies which had no prior experience in fabricating such equipment, but were instead allegedly linked to high-ranking officials.
Another area where more transparency in the tender process is needed would be the allocation of development expenditure in Budget 2021, which comes up to RM69bn – a full RM13bn higher than Budget 2020’s RM56bn.
There needs to be clarity and transparency when it comes to national infrastructure projects, with the assurance that the projects are going to companies that have good track records in similar large-scale projects or that have proven they are capable of undertaking infrastructure development contracts. Budget transparency would go a long way in building public confidence.
It is clear that there remains a need for a visible and transparent money and audit trail, especially when in matters concerning the people’s money.. Being able to provide this would increase public trust in the government of the day, while hiding the trail would cast shadows of doubt over the reigning administration.
C4 Center strongly urges the Perikatan Nasional administration, the first in Malaysia coming through in an unelected manner, that it must be fully accountable, not only for the allocation of national funds, but also the process of using them when implementing the national Budget.