Half of companies operating in Malaysia surveyed have reported that they have lost contracts or business to a competitor due to bribery over the past year, according to an international survey.

"This is an extraordinarily high response and may indicate that corruption in the public sector is systemic, and in some areas, institutionalised," lamented Transparency International-Malaysia president Paul Low yesterday.

NONE"More bold measures must be taken to eliminate entrenched interests and processes that support abuses."

Low was citing data from the Bribe Payer's Survey 2011 that surveys companies in 30 countries with a high level of international trade and investment, including 101 companies in Malaysia.

Among other questions, it asks: "During the last 12 months, do you think that your company has failed to win a contract or gain new businesses because a competitor has paid a bribe?"

The survey was one of eight surveys taken into consideration when calculating Malaysia's Corruption Perception Index 2012, announced yesterday, where the country is ranked at 54th out of 176 - an improvement of six notches from last year's.

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"This is a ‘real' question - it is not about perception (of corruption) - (the answer is) either ‘yes' or ‘no'.

azlan"I show you (this data) because this reflects the reality, rather than what people call ‘perception'," said Low at the press conference when announcing the index.

Low said he was highlighting this to show that corruption has an economic cost.

Of the companies surveyed, 39 in Malaysia answered in the affirmative while another 39 answered in the negative. The remaining 23 said they do not know, or did not answer the question.

Malaysia had the highest proportion of companies - 50 percent - that answered ‘yes' to the question.

This compares to 47 percent in Indonesia, 36 percent in India, 30 percent in United States, 27 percent in China, 24 percent in Nigeria, 17 percent in United Kingdom, 10 percent in Hong Kong, 9 percent in Singapore - and the lowest - 2 percent in Japan.

The same survey also found that 75 percent of Malaysian companies believe that the government's anti-corruption efforts in the private sector were ineffective, ranking it fourth.