Reform Asset Declaration System to Regain Trust

Amidst controversial images of politicians hosting lavish weddings and leading extravagant lifestyles, the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) has released a policy brief highlighting deficiencies in Malaysia’s current asset declaration system. 

Stressing the importance of reforms to Malaysia’s asset declaration system, IDEAS Chief Executive Officer, Wan Saiful Wan Jan stated:

“There are deep systemic weaknesses in our current asset declaration practices. We do not have any legal requirements for parliamentarians or cabinet members to declare their assets nor is there an independent mechanism to verify the assets declared. Not to mention, no public access to the information except in instance where politicians have voluntarily declared their assets in Penang and Selangor”

“We are aware of concerns over privacy. For that reason, the information can be made available upon request alone. But if the politicians believe in the system, they should opt for automatic public access. In other countries like the United States, Hong Kong and Indonesia this information is publicly available, I do not see why Malaysia cannot provide this information”

“From the study, we propose the following steps to improve the current system of asset declaration: 

    • Make it a legal requirement for Ministers and Members of Parliament including Senators to declare their assets to a Special Committee in Parliament.
    • Give a mandate to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to verify and monitor asset declarations as well as cross check the information with other agencies like the Inland Revenue Board and Unit Perisikan Kewangan at Bank Negara.
    • Strengthen the current practice for civil servants by handing over the verification responsibility from the department to the MACC.
    • Allow the information on asset declaration to be available upon public request”

“Studies have shown how asset declaration laws result in lower levels of corruption when coupled with public access and a solid verification mechanism. Public officials, especially politicians, are public figures. Their lifestyles, like it or not, are subject to public scrutiny. The public will start questioning if they see politicians living beyond their means. The public then begins to accuse them of corruption and loses their trust in public institutions”

“Public trust of politicians especially from the ruling parties is currently extremely low. Under such circumstances, any good policies the government comes up are pointless. If the current government and administration want to regain public trust, they should take the recommendation of this paper to reform their asset declaration systems seriously”

The paper can be dowloaded at : 

http://ideas.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/IDEAS-Asset-Declaration_R2-26-May-2015.pdf

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About IDEAS

IDEAS is Malaysia’s first think-tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges. We are an independent not-for-profit organisation. As a cross-partisan think tank, we work across the political spectrum. Our purpose is to advance market-based principles, and we are not bound by party politics, race or religion. Our mission is to improve the level of understanding and acceptance of public policies based on the principles of rule of law, limited government, free markets and free individuals. For more information, please visit http://ideas.org.my/

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Media enquiries:

IDEAS (+60-3) 6201 8896/ 8897  

Shaza Onn shaza@ideas.org.my

Read the full paper here

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