The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4Center) applauds and welcomes Selangor state legislative assembly speaker Hannah Yeoh’s proposal to require all Selangor state assemblypersons to declare their assets and financial interests.
To date, asset declaration within the state of Selangor is only compulsory to its executive council members. Other state level public officials are not included in the policy, although voluntary declarations are encouraged.
Thus, this move to allow the Rights and Privileges Committee to review and comb through the assets and financial interests of all elected representatives is a formidable push towards greater transparency and accountability with the state government. This effort should be emulated by other state governments and most importantly by our federal government.
In contrast, federal level asset declaration is akin to ‘secret society’ operations, where cabinet members privately disclose their information to the prime minister. Declarations kept behind closed doors, defeat the very purpose of such an exercise, disallowing other members of the government and the public from scrutinising how taxpayers’ money is managed and assisting in pointing out discrepancies.
Now more than ever, with the current imbroglio of the RM2.6 billion into the private bank accounts of the prime minister, or the secretly purchased assets of family members of those in power, would not have taken the world by storm if such measures to track assets were already firmly in place in Malaysia.
While security is pertinent and often used as the primary blocker towards public asset declaration, public officials in high ranking positions and who possess substantial powers must take this oath towards public accountability, or lose public trust. An easy demand of bribery from contractors and the like, are all too common, given that their assets are not up for public scrutiny.
In addition, the federal government’s worry of safety and security reflects poorly on the confidence towards the Malaysian police and enforcement. It is no longer acceptable that given the state of corruption and fraud by top public officials in Malaysia, asset declaration of public officials must be made compulsory in Malaysia. The Selangor speaker must be commended for pushing ahead with these reforms for better governance in Selangor.
Thus, we urge the federal government to match Selangor’s integrity in governance and implement asset declaration policies that allows for greater transparency and accountability in order to put a stop to the high level corruption within our nation. This is after all, a major criteria for us to be included in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) group of countries.
CYNTHIA GABRIEL is executive director and SIMITHA SINGAM is freedom of information officer, Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4).