Sunday, November 20, 2011

Malaysia ‘moderate to low’ in defence budget transparency, says anti-graft body

Malaysia ‘moderate to low’ in defence budget transparency, says anti-graft body

November 19, 2011
Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — Malaysia scored “moderate to low” in the Transparency of National Defence Budgets study by Transparency International (TI) UK that was launched locally in Subang Jaya today.

The study released in October reviewed 93 countries and found Malaysia’s defence budget transparency to be on a similar level as that of Thailand, Rwanda and Afghanistan.

Director of the International Defence and Security Program Mark Pyman at TI UK said the security landscape today is fundamentally different from the time of the Cold War.

“Particularly at a time of economic crisis, governments are less ready to accept the waste that comes with corruption.

“Defence budgets, due to their secrecy, are particularly vulnerable to corrupt politicians seeking funds,” he said in the report.

Developed countries such as the UK and the US scored “high”, along with 11 others, while 20 countries including South Korea and Kenya scored “moderate to high.”

Indonesia was among the 14 countries that scored one level better than Malaysia, at “moderate”, while countries like China and Pakistan scored “low.”

The results of the research indicate that approximately 14 per cent of the countries under review in this study scored high and these are primarily developed countries with strong democratic systems in place.

Out of those countries, 21.5 per cent score moderate to high while nearly 65 per cent of countries score moderate, moderate to low, or low.

“Around the world, governments must balance the need to maintain the security of confidential information with budget transparency and accountability to their people,” the report said.

The description for countries that were ranked moderate to low was that there may be a legal framework in place that regulates defence budget management and oversight, and provides for freedom of information.

However, in practice, countries have “little willingness or capacity to enforce these laws”. It also said defence budget figures are disclosed to the public in a highly aggregated manner and on a discriminatory basis.

“Little or no practise of defence and security sector audits, or the government lacks the capacity to undertake them. Significant off-budget military expenditure,” it said.

Malaysia’s Opposition parties have continued to question defence projects which they say have cost over RM16 billion in the last three years alone.

The debate was heightened after William Bourdon, a French lawyer, was deported in July after he spoke in Penang about the controversial RM7 billion Scorpene deal.

The purchase of the two submarines from French defence company DCNS in 2002 was made when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was still defence minister and a company run by Abdul Razak Baginda, said to be a close aide of the then-deputy prime minister, was reported to have received commissions of over RM500 million from the deal.

In December 2009, Suaram filed a complaint with the French courts asking for access to information regarding government contracts signed with Abdul Razak’s Perimekar Sdn Bhd and other information classified as official secrets in Malaysia.

The French courts accepted the request to investigate claims of graft in the RM500 million payment from DCNS to Perimekar.

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