There is a "very high" risk of corruption taking place in Malaysia in the procurement of defence equipment, according to an international study by Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme (TI-DSP).
Malaysia scored 25.14 out of 100 in a 6-band rank which exhibits “very high” risk of corruption among 21 other countries.
The other countries in the study were Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Palestine, Pakistan, Rwanda, Singapore, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
"Malaysia’s band ranking went from “D” – high to “E” – very high," the statement noted.
With the latest findings, local anti-graft watchdog Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) is urging the Ministry of Defence to abandon its practice of direct negotiations with certain parties and instead carry out open tenders.
It also called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration to submit an annual budget, which includes the defence budget, to Parliament for debate, consideration and approval.
This, TI-M said, would allow citizens to know how their tax money is being spent and also avoid outdated military equipment being purchased at very high cost.
The study by TI-DSP found that two-thirds of parliaments and legislatures around the world failed to exercise sufficient control over their ministry of defence and armed forces, and 70% of these largest arms importers in 2012 leave the door open to corruption.
The report also identified seven key areas in which parliaments may reduce corruption, namely budget oversight & debate, budget transparency, external audit, policy oversight & debate, secret budgets oversight, intelligence services oversight and procurement oversight.
TI-M said RM23 billion has been allocated to defence and security under the 10th Malaysian Plan while, in contrast, through the cuts in fuel subsidies, the government was to save RM1.1 billion for the rest of the year and RM3.3 billion next year.
"There is always a high risk for corruption in the defence sector because the amount of money involved in contracts is enormous.
"We think defence establishments can be leaders in integrity and openness, providing an example by leadership to implement integrity pacts for other institutions and sectors within the country," TI-M said in the statement.
The local anti-graft watchdog also expressed concern that lack of transparency in procurement practices would lead to the purchase of outdated military equipment at a very high cost.
"This could cost lives, when there is a war or incident such as that which happened in Lahad Datu, Sabah."
TI-M noted it was time for members of parliament from both sides of the divide to further strengthen their oversight of the country’s defence budget and focus on tightening the procurement procedures.
"Information should be made available to the parliamentarians who will then be able to debate over the defence budget and monitor the procurement process to prevent a similar embarrassment suffered by the Najib administration."
TI-M also called on parliamentarians to establish cross-party committees and groups of external experts to empower their scrutiny and inform their debate of defence matters. – September 18, 2013.