Malaysia: Auditors Strengthened In Bid To Fight Corruption

The ruling government of Malaysia has been trying desperately to shed its image of being corrupt under the rule of Barisan Nasional. Following a tough election in 2013 the ruling party, Barisan Nasional, has become to terms with the need to fight corruption. Unfortunately, doing so is easier said than done.

The government will now allow government auditors to report directly to the auditor general in a bid to increase oversight and the speed at which the government can act on findings. Previously, the auditors department was often forced to wait one to two years while the AG compiled his annual report. Now, auditors should be able to act immediately with approval from the AG’s department.

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Malaysia’s auditors to get increased powers

The Malaysian government’s auditors department is now under the control of Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, the widely respected former director of Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M). When Datuk Low took over as the Auditor General, however, many people criticized the move and actually began to question TI-M’s legitimacy.

So far, however, Datuk Low appears to be serious in his bid to push for reform and increased transparency. Under the new rules, auditors will be able to meet directly with ministers without other officers being present.

He has also emphasized the need to recruit integrity officers for every government ministry. These officers will be absconded from the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, or will be taken from the civil service and retrained. While ministry auditors will work within the ministry, they will remain independent. Apparently, integrity officers will be able to bring issues up directly with ministers, the MACC, or even the Prime Minister himself.

Procurement system to be overhauled

The government will also work to overhaul the procurement system. There will no longer be any direct negotiations in the procurement process, except in the case of emergencies. Instead, procurement will be offered through an open tender, and safe guards will be put in place to ensure that government contracts are awarded based on merit. In the past, the procurement process has frequently been targeted as one of the chief sources of cronyism and corruption.

Datuk Low claims that these changes will not be merely cosmetic, but will instead reflect deep institutional changes. The changes will come as part of a major government overhaul titled the “Integrated Framework to Combat Corruption”. The government has tried in the past, however, to install major reforms, often to little success. This time, however, the success or failure of the Institutional Framework may decide Barisan Nasional’s fate in the next election cycle.