LETTER | Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) welcomes the establishment of a special task force and is encouraged by the appointment of former auditor-general Ambrin Buang to head the special investigation committee on procurement, governance and finance to start off by investigating procurements made by the defence ministry for the alleged corruption scandal on Euros1.2 billion submarine deal.
We hope his planned investigation into the many dubious and shoddy dealings - including the infamous Scorpene scandal - brings about a just and fair closure.
It is our plea to the chairperson to work closely with international officers and investigators particularly from France, in the investigation of the Scorpene deal, as they may have the crucial and required facts and details which could have been collected over the years since the time the case was opened at the French court.
Ambrin may also consider seeking more information from the current and former military officers and staff that worked closely with those involved with the procurement of the submarine at that time. We believe there could be military officers and staffs that hold key information to the dealings, yet could not speak up with the previous administration. Hence, the chairman could perhaps seek their assistance to shed light to the actual facts of the Scorpene deal, and other deals that we may not know of.
Malaysia was ranked in Band D at the Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index (GI) that was released in 2015. The government Defence Anti-Corruption Index (GI) assesses the existence and effectiveness of institutional and informal controls to manage the risk of corruption in defence and security institutions and of their enforcement.
GI 2015 measures the levels of corruption risk in national defence establishments, and scores from A (the best) to F (the worst).
The survey contains 76 questions, each divided into sub-indicators, which are assessed and scored independently by country experts, with all judgements evidenced and peer-reviewed. TI Defence and Security (TI DS) will be kicking-off the research for the latest iteration of the GI this year, and TI-M aims to deepen our engagement with the Ministry of Defence on the upcoming edition.
We were informed by TI DS that the GI will no longer to be released as a single index, instead, the assessments will be released at intervals, and will then aim to update them periodically if and when significant reforms occur in a country. The GI will then becoming a go-to living resource both for governments seeking to understand how they can strengthen their systems as well as those involved in defence diplomacy or capacity-building. We shall be fixing the problem now for improvements in the index.
Defeating defence corruption could be notoriously difficult endeavour but it is a pre-condition for regaining societal confidence. We strongly recommend that the Ministry of Defence to focus on increasing the transparency and integrity of the procurement procedure, to comprehensive endeavours to enhance the integrity of all core defence business processes and changing the behaviour of the stakeholders in the defence sector.
We suggest that the ministry to consider to re-assess the status of the corruption risks before embarking on the design of the anti-corruption programme. Such assessment could lead to the identification of the areas and defence activities involving corruption risks, understanding the reasons for actual or potential corrupt behaviour, generating insight into the perception of the military and other MoD personnel regarding corrupt behaviour and estimating the readiness to accept anti-corruption measures and change.
TI-M would like to call on the government to make it a prerequisite for all contractors, suppliers and vendors to have ethics and anti-corruption programmes in place before bidding for defence work, to bring for greater accountability.
TI-M also hopes that the current government truly considers consulting military experts in all future military purchases. This would disable the acquisition of unnecessary and low-quality items, and allow for the on-the-field experts to choose only weapons and equipment deemed to be of good quality and much needed by the Malaysian military force.
Although the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) produces annual reports containing the performance of budget, general information on arms acquisition, the performance of Malaysian Armed Forces and defence technology transfer, a more detailed breakdown of the expenses on arms procurement is not available. The opacity of defence spending can create opportunities for abuse by corrupt agents.
Malaysia is now at a point to build integrity and reduce corruption in the defence sector. What we need now is immediate action taken to probe and charge them in court on those who had abused our defence spending for their own personal gain and to implement concrete actions to implement an anti-corruption initiative to raise awareness among the military personnel and relevant stakeholders.
While TI-M understands that there is a strong need to keep matters pertaining to defence highly confidential, we hope that the new government works on rectifying loopholes that allow for corruption in the defence procurement sector.
Corruption in defence affects us all. It is not just about commissions on sales – corruption can also directly threaten the lives of citizens and soldiers.
The writer is president, Transparency-International Malaysia (TI-M).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.