Malaysiakini 3 Dec 2013

In a bid to cut corruption, the government has agreed to cut back on direct negotiations in favour of a tender system for all its procurement activities.

The cabinet has given its commitment to this move and the results will show in the future, Transparency and Governance Minister Paul Low said today.

Low said this in response to a question on why Malaysia hasn’t improved much in the latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) rating, as surveyed by Transparency International.

“At the last cabinet meeting it was accepted that there will be no direct negotiations, unless under certain circumstances (where this cannot be avoided), ” Low told reporters in Kuala Lumpur after a high-level meeting on corruption between Pakatan MPs and top government officers.

He said that these circumstances include cases when there is a sole agent, the situation is highly technical, in emergency or disaster cases and when the item is of national security.

The Ministry of Finance took the lead yesterday by publishing a list of some directly negotiated deals worth RM170 million online and other ministries are expected to follow suit.

Low: Future looks good

As for the future, Low expected Malaysia to score better in the CPI ratings because of the ongoing anti-graft campaign which will result in what he described as a “J-curve” effect.

“Whenever you start a campaign, first thing is it will create a perception that there is more corruption – rightly or wrongly – but you become more transparent.

“After that, it will move upwards as evidence based initiatives will really kick in because the benefits should come in and then it will move upwards… that’s the experience of countries who moved through that phase.

“So I hope we are moving in that direction, ” Low said.

Low, who was previously the president of Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M), said talking about corruption would certainly help.

“It’s a good thing because in Malaysia, in the last three to four years, everybody is not afraid to talk about corruption compared with before and that has always been a subject of interest … and one of the key areas of why people cast their vote,” he said.

BN MPs absent

About 30 Pakatan MPs had sat through the two-hour talk and dialogue session, held behind closed doors, organised by Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) with the backing of government Performance Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu).

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) head Abu Kassim Mohamed and Auditor-General Ambrin Buang were the key speakers.

However, no BN MPs turned up even though they were also invited.

“That shows the contrast between Pakatan and BN MPs with regards to this issue. We attended because we wanted to ask pertinent questions with regards to fighting corruption,” Sedang MP Ong Kian Ming said.

However, Ideas chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan took the blame for BN’s no show.

“The reason why we don’t have more MPs here is partly our fault. We started inviting on Friday but unfortunately many are stuck in Parliament.”

Summing up lessons learned from the meet, Ong said the MACC talked about how laws should be strengthened to help them.

He cited for example that Abu Kassim shared during the dialogue that that they could not get banking information of suspects unless they have enough evidence or how they can’t get co-operation from people who have bribed civil servants.

“We need to look into how to work together with MACC to strengthen their power to investigate,” he said.

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