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    This article was downloaded by: [Universiti Utara Malaysia]On: 26 February 2012, At: 04:31Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

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    Public Accountabil it y inMalaysia: Challenges andCritical ConcernsNoore Alam Siddiquee


    aDepart ment of Public Policy and Administration,

    Universit y of Brunei Darussalam, Brunei

    Available online: 07 Feb 2007

    To cite this art icle: Noore Alam Siddiquee (2005): Public Accountabil ity in Malaysia:Challenges and Cri t ical Concerns, International Journal of Public Administ rat ion,28:1-2, 107-129

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    Journal of Public Administration, 28: 107129, 2005

    Copyright Taylor & Francis Inc.

    ISSN 0190-0692 print / 1532-4265 online

    DOI: 10.1081/PAD-200044546

    Journal of PublicAdm inistration281-2Taylor & FrancisTaylor andFrancis 325 Chestnut StreetPhiladelphiaPA191060190-06921532-4265LPADTaylor & Francis Inc.4454610.1081/PAD-2000445462005139SiddiqueePublic Accountabilityin Malaysia

    Public Accountability in Malaysia: Challenges

    and Critical Concerns

    Noore Alam Siddiquee*

    Department of Public Policy and Administration,

    University of Brunei Darussalam, Brunei

    Abstract: Despite its laudable roles in steering the process of socioeconomic develop-

    ment, government bureaucracy in Malaysia has not escaped public criticisms for its

    inefficiency, corruption, and failure to guard public interests. The media, civil society

    groups, intelligentsia, and the political opposition have successfully utilized the major

    scandals to highlight the growing public concern over the poor performance of the

    bureaucracy and its lack of accountability and responsiveness. This has provided impe-

    tus for the clean and efficient government movement initiated in the early 1980s anda series of subsequent efforts aimed at promoting appropriate values and ethics among

    public officials. Numerous rules and regulations have been framed, major reforms have

    been introduced in various spheres of administration, and an extensive program of

    training and bureaucratic reorientation has been undertaken. Despite all this, recent

    evidence suggests that the public service continues to suffer from problems of corrup-

    tion and other irregularities. Obviously, the performance of numerous reforms in

    public service and the institutional mechanisms put in place for tackling ethical prob-

    lems, though positive in general, has fallen short of expectations. This paper seeks to

    examine and analyze the present approach to combating corruption and promoting

    accountability in the Malaysian public service. In particular, it focuses on institutionalmechanisms currently available and identifies and analyzes their constraints and limit-

    ations in keeping the public bureaucracy under surveillance and control.


    In recent years, there has been growing dissatisfaction with the performance

    of public bureaucracies, especially in developing countries. While a number

    of factors explain this phenomenon, the one that has attracted much attention inacademic and policy circles is the relative lack of accountability within the

    administrative systems. Though the advanced countries have found innovative

    *Correspondence: Department of Public Policy and Administration, University of

    Brunei Darussalam, Gadong BE 1410 Brunei; E-mail: [email protected].



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    108 Siddiquee

    ways and means to bolster their accountability and governance, many developing

    countries continue to grapple with the problem of weak and virtually ineffec-

    tive accountability systems and, consequently, suffer from an increasingcorruption, abuse of power, and unethical behavior on part of their public offi-

    cials. This, among others, is often attributed to the development failures and

    other related problems in such societies. Thus, a broad consensus has emerged

    that a significant improvement in the public accountability system is a must if

    the objectives of efficient and responsive government are to be materialized.

    Generally speaking, accountability means answerability. It refers to holding

    the public servants responsible for their actions and performance. This is one

    of the hallmarks of democratic society and good governance. Since democracy

    essentially means the sovereignty of the people, the holders of public officebethey elected representatives or career civil servantsare to remain account-

    able to the people for their actions, policies, and performance. Given that a

    public office is seen as a trust, public officials are required to follow the will

    of the people and to discharge their responsibilities with the highest degree of

    honesty, integrity, and efficiency. Of course, the public nature of their

    employment means that they are to operate within constitutional and legal

    constrains and abide by a host of administrative norms and standards. An

    evaluation of whether their actions are within or outside of the bounds of their

    authority is the referent of idea of public accountability. It is a means tocontrol the behavior of public officials and to check fraud and abuse of power

    on their part. It also ensures the desired types and levels of performance. In the

    absence of accountability public bureaucracy is likely to lose its identity of

    public-ness, surrender its legitimacy, and maybe even relegate itself to the

    pursuit of private interests.[1] Therefore, accountability is seen as a driving

    force that generates the pressure for the key actors involved to be responsible

    for and to ensure good public service performance.[2] Thus, accountability

    has been at the crux of the ideals and clamor for good government.

    Though accountability is classified into several types,[3]

    the means ofholding public bureaucracy accountable and gaining influence over its actions

    can broadly be divided into two: internal and external. Advocates of internal

    accountability emphasize devoting greater attention to public officials own

    professional and personal values and ethics. Internal accountability also signi-

    fies that at each level of the organizational hierarchy, public officials will

    remain answerable to those who supervise their work. In contrast, external

    controls are designed to enable institutions outside the bureaucracy to oversee

    the activities of public officials and compel them to act responsively and effi-

    ciently. In other words, external accountability refers to the process wherebypublic servants remain answerable, for actions carried out and performance

    achieved, to relevant authorities outside their organizations. Although it has

    always been a challenge for the government leaders to strike a balance between

    the two without undermining the motivation and resolve of the administrators

    to perform at their best, modern governments have devised and introduced a



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 109

    mix of constitutional, political, administrative, and judicial mechanisms aimed

    at ensuring public accountability and control. There are elaborate arrange-

    ments that subject public officials to rigorous control, monitoring, and over-sight both from within and from outside. Yet, these are found to have limited

    impact in most societies, as the enforcement of policies is frustrated by a range

    of constraints within the bureaucracy itself and the context in which it operates.

    Thus, administrative reforms currently underway tend to make greater use of

    innovative methods and tools seeking to bolster public accountability.

    While the demand for accountability is universal, it has assumed a parti-

    cular significance in contemporary Malaysia. The impressive gains Malaysia

    made in recent years in terms of socioeconomic development has heightened

    public awareness of and expectations from the public service. As is evident indaily newspapers, the public at largealong with political opponents, civil

    society groups, and NGOsseems to have become more concerned with the

    growing incidence of bureaucratic corruption, irregularities, and abuse of

    power, despite the fact that the role of the public bureaucracy in the process of

    development is duly acknowledged. Besides the major financial scandals of

    the 1980s, the recent examples like the transfer of RM 76.4 million from Per-

    waja Steel into a Swiss bank account, misappropriation of RM 36.5 million

    from rural development programs for the hardcore poor, and irregularities in

    Tabung Haji involving RM 201 million[4]

    have not only been at the center ofdiscussions at various circles, they have raised series of questions about ethics

    and accountability in the public sector. On its part, the government has

    expressed its commitment not only to uproot corruption from administration

    but also to bolster public accountability and responsiveness. Subsequently, a

    number of measures have been initiated towards this end. The present paper

    focuses on the instruments available for promoting accountability within the

    public bureaucracy in Malaysia. More specifically, it seeks to evaluate the

    effectiveness of the existing mechanisms and processes and to identify their

    challenges and limitations. It begins with a brief overview of the governmentaland administrative system in Malaysia.



    The constitution of Malaysia provides for a federal system of government

    within the framework of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

    Nine out of 13 states of the Malaysian federation namely Selangor, Johor,Perak, Perlis, Pahang, Kedah, Terengganu, Kelantan, and Negri Sembilan are

    headed by hereditary sultans. One of these sultans is elected as Yang Di Per-

    tuan Agong, the supreme head of the federation for five years. The remaining

    states (Malacca, Penang, Sabah, and Sarawak) are headed by state governors,

    appointed by theAgong for four years. Modeled on the Westminster system,



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    110 Siddiquee

    Malaysian parliament, the apex of Malaysias political institutions, consists of

    two chambers: Dewan Rakyat(lower house, with 193 members) and Dewan

    Negara (upper house, with 69 members). While the members of the LowerHouse are elected through the universal adult franchise, those in the Upper

    House are mostly nominated. Each of the 13 states nominates two members;

    the remaining 43 members are chosen by theAgong.

    The federal constitution lays down the framework for the executive,

    legislative, and judicial systems of the country. According to the constitution,

    although theAgong is the head of the state, the executive authority is vested in

    and exercised by the Prime Minister and his cabinet. The PM is chosen from

    among the members ofDewan Rakyatfollowing the elections, and, as else-

    where, the leader of the party/group that wins the majority of seats becomesthe PM. Although the executive has been armed with emergency powers, the

    constitutions provide for a system of separation of powers with adequate

    checks and balances. Also as elsewhere, the executive has been made subordi-

    nate to the legislature. Because the PM and his cabinet remain collectively

    responsible to theDewan Rakyat, the later serves as the ultimate repository of

    public accountability.

    The government machinery at the federal level is organized into minis-

    tries, departments, and statutory bodies. Each ministry plays an important role

    in planning, coordinating, and implementing government policies andprograms. The Secretary General, a career civil servant, is the administrative

    head of the ministry. He is to assist and advise the minister concerning all

    matters of the ministry and remains responsible for proper implementation of

    all policies and directives pertaining to the ministry. At the state level, the

    governmental machinery in peninsular Malaysia is organized in a similar fash-

    ion. The State Executive Council is the highest executive authority at the state

    level and is headed by a Menteri Besar(chief minister), who is appointed by

    the federal government. The state secretariat is the top most administrative

    office of the government at this level and is headed by the state secretary. Tofacilitate the administration and delivery of public services to the people, each

    of the states in peninsular Malaysia is divided into districts, mukims (sub-

    districts), and kampungs (villages). Also, there are a total of 158 local govern-

    ment bodies, divided into City Halls, City Councils, Municipal Councils, and

    District Councils. As local government elections have remained suspended

    since the early 1970s, the state governments have been given the power to

    appoint officials at the municipalities within their respective boundaries.

    Though the cabinet system of government has been in place since the

    independence, the executive appears to be dominant in Malaysia. In additionto its power to declare emergencies and to rule country by decrees, the hold of

    the executive has been strengthened by numerous controversial laws/statutes

    that allow the executive to impose its will on the society. More importantly,

    the executive dominance[5] has increased dramatically since the launch of the

    New Economic Policy (NEP) in the early 1970s as a framework for economic



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 111

    and social development of the country. Under the NEP a massive number of

    quasi-public enterprises were created, thereby giving public bureaucracy an

    important role in economic planning, public policy initiatives, and the manage-ment of large sectors of the economy.[6] Though the earlier policy of state-led

    approach to development has since been abandoned, bureaucracy has continued

    to play an active role in terms of setting developmental goals, stimulating

    economic growth through the promotion of private sector and distributing

    incomes and wealth among various ethnic groups. While its growth and expan-

    sion has lately come to a halt, with over 800,000 people the Malaysian public

    bureaucracy is still considerably large relative to the total population of the

    country. As elsewhere in the cabinet system, the public bureaucracy in Malaysia

    is accountable to the minister, who is then accountable to the cabinet, to the par-liament, and to the people. Every act of the public servant is, therefore, an act of

    the minister. Since the minister is in charge of the ministry/department, he is

    expected to enforce accountability of his staff through hierarchical structures.

    An important feature of the Malaysian bureaucracy is the intimate

    relationship between political leadership and public servants. This has been

    the case since the early years of independence. Although in theory, members

    of the public service subscribe to the principle of political neutrality, in

    practice, bureaucracy in Malaysia has never been separated from party poli-

    tics. In the near past, it was common for the civil servants to contest for partypositions. This may have been prohibited later, but the government seems to

    have always encouraged bureaucrats to be associated with the Barisan

    Nasional (BN) politics, policies, and programs. The preferential policy (which

    reserves 80 percent of the positions for theBumiputras) pursued since colonial

    days has meant that civil service positions, especially those at higher levels,

    belong predominantly to Malay aristocrats. Given that they share similar

    social and educational backgrounds and ideological values with political

    elites,[7] the relationship between these two groups is marked by both intimacy

    and interdependence. Such a phenomenon has been more prominent espe-cially since the NEP era. It is against this general background that we look

    into the functioning of public accountability in Malaysia.



    Though the recent years have witnessed a heightened awareness about the

    venality and scale of corruption, attempts at combating this and strengtheningthe public integrity system are by no means new. As elsewhere, the govern-

    ment in Malaysia has made an elaborate arrangement to ensure that the public

    bureaucracy is under effective control and surveillance. It has also made

    continuous attempts to enhance the effectiveness of existing mechanisms by

    introducing appropriate rules and regulations, enacting anticorruption legislation[8]



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    112 Siddiquee

    and reforming institutional mechanisms. Hence, public officials are subjected

    to rigorous monitoring and oversight by a set of institutions, apart from vari-

    ous laws that govern their conducts. This section of the paper reviews theinstitutional arrangements currently available to enforce public accountability

    and makes initial comments on their roles.

    The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA)

    Probably the most important and powerful institutional mechanism available to

    check administrative abuse and hence ensure public accountability in Malaysia is

    the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). The ACA was established in 1967 with themission to prevent and eradicate all forms of misuse of power, corruption, and

    maladministration. Headed by a Director General, the ACA operates through a

    network of offices at the state and field levels; apart from its headquarters at

    Putrajaya, each of the states has its own ACA office (under the State Director)

    and there are another nine branch offices (under branch heads) in five larger

    states. Organizationally, the ACA is attached to the Prime Ministers Department.

    A series of laws and statutes have been framed to enable the ACA to

    discharge its functions effectively. The power of the ACA has been enhanced

    under the Anti-Corruption Act of 1997 to investigate reports of corruption; inthe course of such investigations, it can examine persons, books, and records

    and may search for and seize property. The ACA has committed itself to create

    a Malaysian society that is free from corruption, based on high spiritual and

    moral values, and led by a clean, efficient, and trustworthy government. A

    three-pronged strategy is currently being practiced towards achieving its goals:

    preventive, punitive, and educative. In other words, in addition to an investiga-

    tive function, the agency provides assistance, advice, and training to public and

    private sector organizations in the detection and prevention of corruption. It

    also conducts lectures, dialogues, and other public campaigns to inculcatenoble, ethical, and moral values among the public servants, seeking to educate

    the members of the public about corruption so as to encourage reporting.[9]

    Since its establishment, the ACA has played an important role in Malaysian

    society. It has been able to establish itself as a dynamic and largely effective

    organization in combating and controlling corruption. Even external observers

    speak of it positively,[10] and the political oppositions within the country have

    made increasing use of the agency, thus displaying their trust on the agency.

    The ACA has formulated a comprehensive action plan to combat and elimi-

    nate corruption and so far has managed to investigate a large number ofcorruption cases at different levels:

    As the table shows, during the last 20 years the ACA has investigated, on

    average, 522 cases. The average rate of prosecution and arrests during the same

    period were 316 and 200 cases, respectively. Disciplinary actions were taken

    against 125 persons annually. However, the ACA is not without its critics and



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 113

    shortcomings. The main themes of the criticisms against the agency are that the

    ACA is still weak in terms of its power and authority, that the agency is mainly

    preoccupied with cases of petty corruption and lower level officials, and that itlacks the professionalism and operational autonomy necessary to discharge its

    responsibilities effectively (as elaborated later in this discussion).

    Dewan Rakyat

    As elsewhere, the Malaysian parliament is seen as a powerful mechanism for

    enforcing public accountability. In theory, the parliament as the prime poli-

    tical institution of the country holds the government accountable and thegovernment officialsbeing servants of the publicare accountable to the pub-

    lic through the parliament. The administration is represented by the ministers,

    who are accountable to the House for the overall activities of their respective

    ministries. More importantly, when the Malaysian constitution provides that

    the cabinet shall be collectively responsible to the parliament, it essentially

    Table 1. Number of Cases Investigated and Other Actions Taken by ACA, 19822001






    No. of


    No. of



    Actions taken

    1982 10983 710 263 229 143

    1983 8434 530 226 379 149

    1984 7769 636 378 208 84

    1985 6790 496 305 191 91

    1986 6666 537 273 196 151

    1987 6967 547 291 226 85

    1988 6791 528 329 233 150

    1989 8217 509 255 223 101

    1990 7387 426 254 150 195

    1991 6789 416 295 161 105

    1992 7890 448 356 258 128

    1993 7902 438 366 189 150

    1994 8177 430 361 102 99

    1995 8505 481 375 212 126

    1996 8940 526 327 187 209

    1997 10087 493 334 240 137

    1998 9435 511 300 168 121

    1999 7829 413 283 159 56

    2000 10736 699 431 160 57

    2001 9039 663 318 115 154













    Source: ACA Annual Reports, 19822001.



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    114 Siddiquee

    recognizes the limits to executive authority and the ministerial responsibility

    hallmarks of the Westminster system. Therefore, the parliament may censure

    or force the resignation of an individual minister for failure to discharge hisduties or for gross irregularities. It may even cause the entire cabinet to resign

    if a vote of no confidence against the government is successful.

    Parliamentary questions, supplementary questions, debates, and motions

    are among the devices that the Members of Parliament (MPs) can use to scru-

    tinize the activities of various ministries of the government and those of the

    senior bureaucrats within these ministries. The purpose of question hour, for

    example, is to enable MPs to ventilate public grievances and to draw attention

    towards the failure of the government and its administration. There can also

    be scheduled as well as unscheduled debates on important matters. Thus,generally speaking, the parliament provides ample opportunities to the MPs to

    raise matters of public concern and have them debated on the floor of the

    House. It is expected that the MPs will make use of such tools and will be able

    to point out the omissions and commissions on part of government, thereby

    bringing the bureaucracy under effective control.

    The other viable and potentially powerful accountability tool in the

    parliamentary system is the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The PAC is

    responsible for examining government accounts and reports of Auditor

    General (AG). As the PAC has been given the power to send for persons,papers, and records from any ministry, civil servants are liable to be called

    before the PAC to explain any financial irregularities in their ministries. How-

    ever, in practice, the impact of PAC is believed to be limited. Experience

    shows that usually the PAC examines the accounts and reports several years

    later; it focuses on specific observations suggested[11];and, having no execu-

    tive authority, at times it fails to get compliance from ministries and agencies.

    The Auditor Generals Office

    The Malaysian government has also devised an elaborate institutional system

    to maintain fiscal discipline within the government. The office of the Auditor

    General (AG) office is at the center stage of fiscal control and accountability.

    The AG is empowered to undertake, among other things, a detailed audit of all

    government accounts, accounts of ministries and state owned enterprises, and

    accounts of local government bodies and companies whose majority share is

    owned by the government. The AG or any person authorized by him has

    access to all records, books, vouchers, and documents in the possession of anyperson in the service of the nation. He is expected to detect, during the course

    of his audit, any financial irregularities or noncompliance or deviation from

    rules or regulations pertaining to fiscal management, and must reflect it in the

    report submitted to theAgong annually. TheAgong then must ask the govern-

    ment to present the AGs report to the parliament.



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 115

    In the Westminster system such as is found in Malaysia, the AG is seen as

    an important arm of the legislative oversight. The AG is to serve as an

    Ombudsman in financial matters, inform the lawmakers about the fiscalmanagement by public agencies, thus enabling them to review the overall

    performance. Even though the AG has undertaken audit exercises regularly,

    there are several problems and anomalies that reduce the effectiveness of such

    efforts to a large extent. Critics argue that, like the ACA, the AG in Malaysia

    does not enjoy the independence and operational autonomy required for effect-

    ive discharge of its functions.[12] Second, it is a daunting task for the AG to

    undertake a detailed and systematic audit of a public sector of this sizeabout

    1700 public enterprises and government companies. Though the AG is autho-

    rized to appoint private firms for audit exercises, experience shows that thereare too many agencies to allow surveillance; government-owned companies

    rarely come to closer scrutiny and the audit reports are almost invariably

    late.[13] When audit reports are submitted late, timely corrective actions cannot

    be initiated. Third, the AG is not an executive agency; it can only detect prob-

    lems and lapses and inform the relevant agencies to initiate actions. This has

    allowed many agenciesincluding ministries, departments, statutory bodies,

    and local governmentto disregard or ignore persistently audit observations

    and queries.[14] Such a tendency has rendered the audit exercise useless.

    The Public Complaints Bureau (PCB)

    While many commonwealth countries have adopted the Swedish institution of

    relying upon the office of Ombudsman as an independent and impartial arbiter

    between the government and the individual to check abuse and maladministra-

    tion within the public agencies and statutory bodies, the government of

    Malaysia has established what is known as the Public Complaints Bureau

    (PCB). The PCB is headed by a Director General, and it is attached structur-ally to the Prime Ministers Department. The functions of PCB are supervised

    by a permanent Committee on Public Complaints, which is headed by the

    Chief Secretary to the government.

    The PCB is responsible for receiving and investigating public complaints

    against government bureaucracy involving misconduct, abuse of power, and

    maladministration. The government considers the PCB the focal point for the

    public to forward their complaints and seek redress on any alleged administra-

    tive lapses and abuse of power. Over the years, the government has introduced

    several changes to strengthen the public complaints management system.Though the PCB, being an adjunct to the MPs Office, falls short of the

    Ombudsman, its role and significance should not be underestimated. During

    the recent years it has served as a major channel for the public to lodge their

    grievances against public bureaucracy. On average, the bureau has received

    5000 complaints annually.[15] The PCBs recent annual reports highlight



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    116 Siddiquee

    recurrent complaints relating to the delay in the service provision and abuse of

    power by public authorities. These are not only looked into, but also used as

    important feedback to enhance efficiency, transparency, and effectiveness ofthe government. The increasing number of complaints lodged to PCB indi-

    cates its popularity among the public, although the number of complaints

    settled remains rather low. It may be mentioned here that the PCB works in

    close cooperation with other agencies like the ACA and relevant government

    departments. In most cases, the PCB refers the cases to the ACA to undertake

    investigations or to the departments to initiate internal actions.

    The Media and Civil Society Groups

    In a democratic society, civil society organizations and the media are regarded as

    important mechanisms to promote public accountability. They are expected to

    act as powerful forces guarding public interest against bureaucratic arbitrariness

    and highhandedness. A look at major newspapers reveals that increasing number

    of letters, reports, and analyses are published by the press every day, thus high-

    lighting the public concerns and giving the citizens an alternative channel to

    voice their views and experiences. Though it is hard to deny the critical role

    played by the press, in the Malaysian context the medias role is still perceived tobe rather limited. Acts like the Official Secrets Act and the Publications and

    Printing Act not only restrict the access of the media to certain information but

    also effectively prohibit the newspapers from informing the public of the dynam-

    ics within the government. While the Malaysian government is against the total

    liberation model of the press, arguing that such freedom is detrimental to the

    stability and progress of the country, political analysts see these restrictions as a

    major impediment for the media to emerge as public crusader blowing the whistle

    on official malfeasance and abuse of power. The electronic media in Malaysia is

    in the firm grip of the government. Likewise, all major dailies are either whollyowned by the government or under the direct influence of component parties of

    the BN government. As such, they are far less objective than one would expect

    them to be in their reporting and analyses of major local and national issues. Also

    the media faces a formidable challenge with regard to the publication of critical

    analytical commentaries, as they are required to renew their licenses from the

    Ministry of Home Affairs every year. The sweeping powers given to the

    government under the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Press and Publications

    Act, the Internal Security Act, and the Sedition Act serve as further limitations on

    the ability of the media to act as an effective watchdog.[16]

    The party ownershipof and tight control over newspapers and electronic media, along with aforemen-

    tioned prohibitive laws, may have served the government well, but there is a

    strong view that this has had deleterious effect on governmental accountability.

    Rapid socioeconomic progress in Malaysia has been accompanied by the

    development of a relatively large number of organizations and institutions



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 117

    commonly referred to as civil society groups. Important among them are

    ALIRAN (Social Conscientiousness Movement), the Consumers Association

    of Penang (CAP), Womens Aid Organization, the Environment ProtectionSociety, Suaram (Voice of Malaysia), International Movement for a Just

    World, National Human Rights Society, Bar Council, and a variety of other

    trade unions and professional bodies. These organizations and groups have

    played an important role as a countervailing source of power in checking the

    abuse of power by political and administrative elites. In the early and mid-

    1980s they highlighted a wide variety of public concerns including political

    and administrative corruption, clientelism and cronyism within the govern-

    ment, irregularities in privatization exercises, environmental problems, and

    the problems of political equality and civil liberty.[17]

    They were also criticalof government policies and handling of issues; the central thrust of the criti-

    cism concerned the concentration of power and the lack of accountability.

    Despite a generally odd political climate and everpresent threats of the Inter-

    nal Security Act (ISA), civil society organizations continued to thrive making

    their views heard through nonconventional means.

    Other Strategies & Tools

    Since the 1970s, the assimilation of universal values and positive work ethics

    among the public servants has been an objective of governmental efforts in

    Malaysia. In fact, the government has made consistent attempts to inculcate

    the right attitude and good habits among civil servants. Two important books

    published in 1991, entitled Values and Ethics in the Public Service and The

    Twelve Pillars: Values, Norms and Ethics in the Public Service , serve as

    guides on values and ethics that need to be internalized and practiced by

    public officials. Training programs and seminars always seek to produce attitu-

    dinal changes and inculcation of positive values and work ethics among publicofficials. Apart from various guidelines issued from time to time aimed at help-

    ing the public officials to discharge their responsibilities in an efficient, effec-

    tive, and responsive manner, a number of concrete steps were made. Important

    among them are the introduction of the Clients Charter in 1993, initiation of

    Standard Accounting System for Government Agencies (SAGA), and the

    improved financial management system through the adoption of the Micro

    Accounting System and the Modified Budgeting System (MBS). Thus, special

    attention has been paid to aspects of financial management and accountability.

    A major aspect to note here is that the notion of accountability has beenextended beyond mere compliance with rules and regulations to focus on

    results and outputs. The MBS, for example, is essentially a contract of perfor-

    mance,[18] as the managers receive resources and flexibility to use them in

    return for promising specific results. The determination of the government is

    further evident in the recent directives to establish management integrity panels



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    118 Siddiquee

    at all levels and agencies and to hold conventions on management integrity.

    Accordingly, government agencies, including the local government and auton-

    omous bodies, have started to form integrity committees, which deviseprograms to inculcate noble values among the staff and curb corrupt practices.



    Despite all these efforts and the institutional and procedural mechanisms

    available, bureaucratic accountability in Malaysia appears to be weak and

    largely ineffective. A 1991 investigation revealed that corrupt practices wererampant at all levels of the government and that both political leaders and

    public servants were involved in this corruption.[19] The picture does not

    seem to have changed much since then. A more recent study conducted

    jointly by the Malaysian Institute of Management and Kuala Lumpur Society

    for Transparency International also shows that corrupt practices are wide-

    spread within the government.[20] There are allegations that contracts are

    often awarded based on political and kinship ties and kickbacks, and that

    bribes are common for obtaining governmental approval for business. It is

    now an open secret that corruption is rampant particularly at lower levels insuch agencies as police, roads and transportation, immigration, customs and

    excise, and local government.[21] Thus, the evidence shows that existing insti-

    tutions and mechanisms have performed poorly in arresting the erosion of

    moral values in the society and administration. This leads us to the inevitable

    question: Why? In this section of the paper we will try to answer to this ques-

    tion by analyzing the operational aspects of various accountability tools/


    One obvious explanation for the failure of existing institutions to curb

    corruption is that there is a wide gap between theory and practice, between therhetoric and the reality. Also, there are a variety of factors that serve as major

    barriers, thereby rendering the formal mechanisms far less effective than

    expected. In theory, the ACA and AGOthe two most important agencies

    have been given adequate power and authority, but in practice they encounter

    a host of problems while discharging their responsibilities. Because of the

    shortage of manpower[22] and skills they are not in a position to handle the

    gigantic task of investigating an ever-increasing number of cases and auditing

    of all transactions by public authorities. Apparently the ACA is active in vari-

    ous spheres of its functions, however, its overall impact is limited. A closerlook at Table 1 indicates that the ACA has been able to investigate less than

    7% of the cases it received annually. On its part, the ACA claims to have

    referred many of these cases to respective departments for disciplinary

    actions. Still, the meager number of cases investigated and arrests made

    speaks to the agencys inadequacy. One is also bound to be skeptical as there



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 119

    is no sign that the number of cases investigated each year has increased signifi-

    cantly during the past 20 years.

    As the Table 2 shows, the ACA seems to have remained preoccupied withcatching the small fry and cases of petty corruption, leaving the big guns

    undisturbed and cases of grand corruption unexplored. During the period 1996

    to 2001, whereas only 4 arrests were made at the highest level of the civil ser-

    vice, the number of arrests of councilors (local government functionaries) and

    politicians during the same period were 11 and 15, respectively. While a total of

    117 people were arrested from the management and professional group

    (midlevel civil servants), 959 people were arrested from the support staff

    category. In terms of percentage, the latter represents almost 87 percent of the

    total arrests made. It is true that the members of support staff are more vulnera-ble to corruption, however, this does not mean that the problem of corruption is

    confined to the lower strata of the administrative hierarchy. The number of

    arrests made from the top management, local government officials, and politicians

    is too small to reflect accurately the corruption at higher levels. This does not

    match with the growing number of high-level corruption cases reported in news-

    papers. One is, therefore, apt to conclude that the ACA finds lower-level offi-

    cials an easier target, as they have neither the influence nor the political clout to

    escape prosecution/conviction. Given that Malaysia does not have an indepen-

    dent anticorruption agency as in Hong Kong, those at higher levels enjoy somesort of immunity as actions cannot be taken against them unless the permission

    is obtained from the above. Thus, the institutional location of the ACA under the

    Prime Ministers department and its subservience to political offices with regard

    to the opening of investigations against senior officials and important individuals

    in political circles is seen as a major deterrent to its task of vigilance.[23]

    The fiscal measures described earlier have their limitations in controlling

    the situation. The effectiveness of the AG depends to a large extent on the

    quality of reports prepared, the thoroughness of probes and enquiries con-

    ducted, and the sincerity of the legislature in getting the reports implemented.However, in Malaysia, as is in many other developing countries, audit reports

    Table 2. Number of Arrests in the Public Sector by Category, 19962001

    Category 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 Total

    Top management 1 1 1 0 1 0 4

    Management &


    22 21 14 17 27 16 117

    Support staff 153 175 171 136 175 149 959

    Councilors 0 1 8 2 11

    Politicians 1 2 8 2 0 2 15

    Total 177 200 202 157 203 167 1106

    Source: Data obtained from the ACA.



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    120 Siddiquee

    prepared by AG are characterized by inadequate coverage and unusual

    delays.[24] This makes it difficult to take actions in cases of financial impropri-

    ety or administrative negligence. Secondly, the audit can be broadly regardedas a compliance auditthe purpose being to see whether the relevant rules

    and procedures have been observed. Even though the performance audit has

    been introduced lately, it has remained difficult for the auditors to establish

    whether a particular expenditure was truly in public interest, whether policy

    goals were achieved, and whether expenditures were made in the most effi-

    cient manner. Thirdly, access to government information is limited not only

    for the members of the public but also for the auditors. The Official Secrecy

    Act and other prohibitive actsalong with the categorization of government

    documents as top secret, secret, confidential, restricted, and so forthimposea limitation on the jurisdiction of the investigation and prevent the auditors

    from delving further into governmental affairs.

    The performance of the Malaysian legislature has been far from satisfactory.

    TheDewan Rakyathas failed to assert itself as a powerful watchdog over the

    functions of the executive. The effectiveness of the House in this regard has

    been greatly reduced by the excessive dominance of the ruling coalition and the

    absence of a strong and credible opposition. Malaysia provides a unique case

    wherein the ruling coalition has since independence maintained its two-thirds

    majority (except in the 1969 elections) in the parliament, thereby allowing itselfto remain indifferent to opposition demands for greater accountability in the

    process of governance. As Table 3 shows, during the past 20 years the number

    of seats captured by the combined opposition has remained quite low. The

    oppositions best showing, in the 1990 and 1999 electionswinning 53 and 45

    seats out of 180 and 193, respectivelyfell short of one-third of the parliamentary

    seats. Even though the opposition has increased its percentage of votes by

    exploiting issues of public concern, it has never been able to pose a strong

    enough challenge to the BN to force the later to alter its policies and prefer-

    ences. It relevant to note that despite enjoying an absolute majority in the parlia-ment, the government in Malaysia, generally speaking, offers ample

    opportunities for open and detailed discussions on matters of public interest

    Table 3. Share of Government and Opposition Seats inDewan Rakyat, 19821999


    Year Total Seats

    Government Opposition

    Seats Percentage Seats Percentage

    1982 154 132 85.71 22 14.291986 177 148 83.62 29 16.38

    1990 180 127 70.55 53 29.45

    1995 192 162 84.38 30 15.62

    1999 193 148 76.68 45 23.32

    Source: Adapted from Funston, 2001.



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 121

    including cases of corruption and maladministration. However, often such

    opportunities cannot be fruitfully utilized. Usually, the MPs belonging to the

    ruling coalition are reluctant to discuss matters of public concern, for fear ofparty discipline and embarrassment. On the other hand, those in the opposition

    often feel neglected. They also face other constraints, since the standing orders

    of the house have been changed to their disadvantage: question time has been

    limited to 1 hour and 25 questions; adjournment speeches have been banned for

    certain occasions; insufficient time is given to study the bills; and the treasury

    bench tends to pass the bill as quickly as possible.[25,26] All this suggests that the

    scope for the MPs to highlight and raise critical concerns and thus exert some

    control on the executive is at best marginal. The scenario is not radically different

    elsewhere. R.B. Jain notes from the Indian experience:

    The greatest obstacle to effective parliamentary control is perhaps the

    apathy shown by majority of members towards constructive criticism

    and supervision of government policies and loss of precious parliament-

    ary time in unnecessary procedural wrangles or shouting or sitting in the

    wells of the House. Seldom, if ever, have debates and discussions in

    parliament shown a dispassionate analysis of government policies, and

    these policies are very often discussed and motivated by party-politics

    considerations. The only remedy for this malaise, and it is not an easyone, is a change in the attitude of the individual Member of Parliament,

    who needs to rise above the narrow partisan outlook and to discuss the

    issues on merit.[27]

    Question time, debates, and motions have not proved very effective in securing

    ministerial/bureaucratic accountability since the answers to questions and sup-

    plementary questions are either inadequate or evasive, controversial questions

    are always scheduled at the end of the session to allow inadequate time, and

    debates and motions proposed by opposition MPs are often suspended for lackof quorum in the House.[28] Recent experience shows that the government

    MPs usually resort to this type of sabotage, particularly when sensitive mat-

    ters are introduced, thus thwarting the oppositions attempt to seek greater

    governmental responsiveness. The Malaysian experience also shows that

    often policy decisions are not subjected to detailed scrutiny on the floors of

    the House. While the opposition faces an array of problems as outlined above,

    those within the government are also unable to be outspoken, as they are

    always expected to go along the party lines. In addition to the threat of party

    discipline, they consider criticisms of the government and its administration tobe self-defeating, as they may have negative consequences on their ambitions

    for ministerial office or future nominations with party tickets. Since no one

    wants to invite the wrath of the party leadership, there is very little chance of

    tough questions being brought up by those in the treasury bench. This is a par-

    adox shared by many other countries with the cabinet system of government.



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    122 Siddiquee

    The effectiveness of legislative committees is greatly reduced by a number

    of factors. On the one hand, there are far fewer legislative committees in

    Malaysia than elsewhere, on other hand, those committees available are not ina position to probe governmental performance for a variety of reasons. Com-

    mittees like Public Accounts Committee (PAC) fail to play any major part

    because the financial and management control within the government is

    generally weak and the public accounts and audit reports presented to the PAC

    are inadequate and almost always late. Secondly, committees are not so effect-

    ive given that they are always headed by the ruling BN MPs. Committee leader-

    ship, being part of the government, is usually expected to be less enthusiastic

    in scrutinizing the activities of his government and those of its bureaucracy. It

    may be added here that the repeated overtures from the opposition for appoint-ing the committee chairmen from their MPs, as it is done in Britain, have gone

    unnoticed. Thirdly, legislative committees are toothless entities, as they are

    advisory bodies and lack any formal authority to enforce their recommendations/

    decisions. This allows various ministries of the government to bypass the

    committees and even to defy the committees directives in terms of checking

    financial irregularities. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that though the PAC

    has made hundreds of recommendations over the years, very few of them have

    been implemented by relevant agencies/ministries of the government. One

    may conclude that the legislative oversight in general and committee systemin particular has a very limited impact on bureaucratic control and account-

    ability. The problem of legislative oversight has been weakened further by the

    governments policy of keeping some spending above legislative scrutiny.

    The following observation by an analyst aptly summarizes the point:

    a large amount of government revenue is off-budget, since large state

    enterprises (e.g. Petronas) are not accountable to the parliament. The

    existence of a ruling party that has always commanded over two-thirds

    of parliamentary seats has also meant that much of the legislative andfinancial oversight has been pro forma, and that parliament has not

    acted as a check on the executive.[29]

    The principle of ministerial responsibilitythat is, that the minister accepts

    the responsibility for any lapses or irregularities within his ministry and

    resigns from his officeas is seen in mature democracies, is either weak or

    missing in Malaysia. Despite reports of numerous irregularities in various

    agencies at different levels, misappropriation of funds by individuals and

    groups, and increasing volume of complaints received from the public on thequality of services and responsiveness, rarely has a minister chosen to accept

    responsibility for such irregularities. Obviously, in the present system the minis-

    ters are under no obligation to resign as long as they enjoy the PMs blessings.

    They can also avoid answering to the questions in the House, since only very

    limited questions are accepted and discussed. Not even the parliament can



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 123

    unseat a minister through a vote of no confidence as long as the party solidarity

    and discipline is emphasized.

    This explains why the government survived major financial scandals(e.g., BMF and Perwaja Steel) and how it is that the public bureaucracy con-

    tinues to operate in a somewhat autonomous fashion. Despite its adoption of

    the Westminster model of government, Malaysia is often described as an

    administrative state,[30] and its civil service is seen as accountable to

    itself.[31] This is possibly to suggest that administration is the dominant institu-

    tion and enjoys autonomy vis--vis other political and social institutions of the

    country. This is not to deny that the public bureaucracy is under the direct con-

    trol of the cabinet and that the ministers are generally capable and experienced

    enough to control the bureaucrats within their respective ministries. In fact,the ministerial control on bureaucracy has been strengthened to some extent

    by continued rule by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO)-led

    coalition and the dominance of the executive. While this is true, there is no

    denying the fact that the Malaysian bureaucracy has seen a considerable

    increase in its power since 1970, as elaborated earlier. Apart from their techni-

    cal knowledge, experience, and skills, bureaucrats have managed to enhance

    their authority by successfully utilizing their ties with political elites.[32] In sit-

    uations where bureaucrats develop close relationship with politicians and pol-

    iticians depend on bureaucratic support and advice, accountability getsrelegated to the secondary position. In the Malaysian context, this has been

    reinforced further by the increasing trends towards politicization of higher civil

    service.[33,34] This has also led to the erosion of the notion of apolitical bureau-

    cratic institution. Although bureaucrats are no longer allowed to hold party posi-

    tions as before, many of them, especially those working in the state-controlled

    radio and television (RTM), Ministry of Information, Ministry of Rural Devel-

    opment, and National Civics Bureau (BTN), are expected to act virtually as

    agents of the ruling coalition.

    Such a phenomenon, wherein the public bureaucracy serves as a wing ofthe ruling party and the members of bureaucracy virtually become (passive)

    members of the ruling party/ coalition, has had a deleterious effect on the

    morale and professional ethics of the public servants. This is clearly evident in

    the overall decline in the professionalism within public service.[35] In the

    Malaysian context, the problem is exacerbated because the public servants

    supporting the opposition often face disciplinary actions while those supporting

    the government receive rewards while in office (e.g., promotions and benefits)

    and after retirement (e.g., appointments as company chairmen and directors).

    Such a policy means that bureaucrats in general are encouraged not only to beloyal to the ruling party but also to support actively its policies and programs.

    Given this reality, many bureaucrats, especially those who want to build

    careers in politics, find an incentive to become political while in service.

    Understandably, when civil servants become enmeshed in politics, political

    leaders are either unable or unwilling to enforce vigorous accountability.



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    Active participation in party programs and proximity to political leadership

    allow bureaucrats to practice what Puthucheary calls a highly discretionary

    and personalized style of administration. This also explains the growingevidence of ministerial indulgence on public bureaucracy in recent years. [36]

    Bureaucratic accountability in Malaysia has suffered further setback

    because of numerous restrictions imposed on the press and the lack of public

    access to information. As already noted, both the electronic and print media

    are virtually under government control. This, along with various coercive

    legislations and restrictions on the press have greatly undermined the

    medias prospect and suppressed public opinion as a powerful force in

    checking governmental excesses. Since much information is kept out of

    public eye and the public servants operate behind a veil of secrecy, it is easierfor them to abuse their authority and discretion. Thus, administrative

    secrecy is inimical to bureaucratic accountability. While certain types of

    information are legitimate official secrets, there is also a growing view that a

    more liberal dissemination of information is desirable as it is likely to promote

    administrative efficiency and effectiveness in addition to enhancing governmental

    accountability and legitimacy. Likewise, the judiciary is unable to play its part

    in checking the excesses for the alleged political interference. Although in the-

    ory the judiciary in Malaysia is independent, and it has been held in high esteem

    in the past, its integrity has been suspect since the trial of Anwar Ibrahim, thesacked Deputy Prime Minister. More recent evidence shows that the judiciary is

    far from independent and at times the judges receive instructions from higher

    authorities,[37] especially in cases where the government is involved. This

    shows, again, the gap between the rhetoric and the reality and the practical diffi-

    culties on part of watchdog agencies to act in an impartial manner.

    One of the greatest barriers to administrative accountability in Malaysia,

    as elsewhere, is not the lack of rules and regulations, but the lack of their

    enforcement. One can see the gulf between theory and practice in different

    areas. Supervision systems appear to be weak; senior officials within theofficial hierarchy lack motivation and willingness to control their subordinates

    strictly. They tend to ignore many failures and deviations of their subordinates

    and seek explanations only for most obvious and appalling lapses. Though

    laws require stern actions against public servants and their dependents who

    are in possession of resources disproportionate to their known sources of

    income or who have assumed a lifestyle beyond their ostensible means,

    hardly anything is done. Very few public officials with property acquired

    through dubious means have had their goods confiscated. This reflects the

    gap between the rhetoric and reality that often emboldens the governmentservants to indulge in corruption and make fortunes. Even the recommenda-

    tions made by PAC, PCB, and ACA often go unimplemented. The depart-

    mental heads have shown apathy toward taking punitive actions against their

    subordinates.[38] The situation has been aptly summarized by an observer

    who says:



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 125

    The problem with the civil service is that the proverbial carrot and

    stick do not come simultaneously. More often than not the stick does

    not exist at all unless one is caught with ones pants down. One caneven get away with murder with the right contact and some luck. In

    other words, the civil service is one big comfort zone.[39]

    While the internal control system is weak and nonfunctional, an effective

    monitoring of civil servants from outside is almost absent. The political lead-

    ership in Malaysia has an apparent distrust to autonomous and powerful

    watchdog bodies. As such, the country has yet to see the establishment of

    either an autonomous anticorruption commission or the office of Ombudsman,

    which have played vital roles elsewhere in weeding out corruption fromadministration. This has not only allowed the public servants to maintain their

    discretion and, hence, their power, but also fostered all forms of bureaucratic

    indulgence. Thus one finds endless stream of public complaints reported in

    newspapers on nonfeasance and malfeasance of bureaucratic duties. In recent

    years the civil service has recorded a 58% increase in formal complaints. Most

    often these complaints are relating to the poor quality and delay in the service

    provision, lack of responsiveness on part of providers, and irregularities of all

    forms, despite clear government policies. Public interests seem to be of little

    concern to many public servants; their abuses and pettiness are increasinglyclear in the complaints of aggrieved citizens.

    Though innovations in the area of public management such as Clients

    Charter, MAS, and MBS are presented as viable tools for enhancing the

    governmental responsiveness and accountability, their impacts have remained

    limited for reasons outlined above. Evidence shows that 20 percent of public

    agencies are yet to formulate their Clients Charters and that those with

    charters often fail to abide by them or to deliver what is promised in those

    charters.[40] The Auditor Generals report indicates various weaknesses,

    anomalies, and deficiencies in the area of financial management. It also pointsto the failures on part of the federal, state, and local governments to comply

    with relevant rules and regulations; loss and embezzlement of public funds;

    and improper monitoring and supervision.[41] This suggests that the innova-

    tions in the field of financial management did not represent any breakthrough

    in terms of ensuring financial accountability. Not surprisingly, Malaysia has

    remained almost at the same level (33rd out of 102 countries in 2002) in the

    global corruption perception index (CPI) of Transparency International. For

    more details, see


    It is clear from the above discussion that despite a fairly comprehensive

    institutional and legal arrangement, the current approach to bureaucratic



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    126 Siddiquee

    accountability suffers from a multitude of weaknesses and deficiencies. These,

    combined with those in the political and administrative culture of the country,

    have an adverse effect on professionalism and integrity in the public service.It also shows that as far as public service ethics and accountability in Malay-

    sia is concerned there is still much room for improvement. At the beginning

    of the twenty-first century, when the need for good governance is more and

    more pronounced everywhere, it is an imperative that the challenges and con-

    straints are addressed and the nations public integrity system strengthened.

    There is an obvious need to monitor and review the performance of existing

    mechanisms and more so to develop comprehensive strategies to fight the

    evil. The ACA, AGO, and other oversight bodies need to be strengthened in

    terms of authority and resources. Since a comprehensive anticorruption legis-lation is already in place, there is a need to ensure vigorous enforcement of

    rules and regulations alongside reorientation of public officials and align-

    ment of public sector pay with that of the market. The neighboring Singapore

    has emerged as one of the corruption-free societies, due mainly to the strict

    enforcement of anticorruption laws, the policy of paying public servants ade-

    quately, and the successful execution of anticorruption ethos throughout the

    civil service. Hence, Malaysia has much to learn from the Singapore experi-

    ence. While it is important to have proper education and nurturing of ethical

    standards among the current and future public servants, at the same time it isimportant to strictly enforce codes of ethics in public service, widen public

    access to information, and make public procurement and vital decisions more

    open and transparent. The strengthening of parliamentary oversight, appoint-

    ment of Ombudsman and/or an independent anticorruption commission can

    go a long way in fighting this social evil.

    While some improvements have already been made, further progress will

    require reforms in the larger political and governmental systems. Changes

    introduced in other institutional and procedural mechanisms are unlikely to

    make any breakthrough if the political and governmental structure remainsunaltered. Despite all changes, the Malaysian system of government has

    remained highly centralized, public participation in the process of governance

    has been absent, and the local government system has been virtually ineffec-

    tive. Such a system has undoubtedly strengthened the position of the bureau-

    crats vis--vis the people. Political patronization of the collusive bureaucracy

    has further undermined the prospect of holding them accountable. Thus, a

    major revamp in the political and governmental system is called for if

    enhanced and more effective public service accountability is desired. Malaysia

    may also learn from the experiences of other Commonwealth countries likeHong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand, in addition to Singapore. However,

    given the differences in economic, social, and cultural traditions, it may not be

    feasible to adopt the same strategies everywhere. Continuous and consistent

    efforts are required to learn from each others experience and to collaborate at



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 127

    the regional level for mutual benefits. The Malaysian leadership seems to be

    well aware of this.


    1. Haque, M.S. Emerging Challenges to Bureaucratic Accountability: A

    Critical Perspective. In Handbook of Bureaucracy, Ali Farazmand, Ed.;

    Marcel Dekker Inc.: New York, 1994; 265285.

    2. Paul, S. Accountability in Public Services: Exit, Voice and Control. World

    Development, 1992, 20 (7), 10471060.

    3. Based on who is accountable to whom, how, and for what, Carino identi-fies four different types of accountability: traditional, managerial, program,

    and process accountability. For her, the traditional accountability focuses

    on the compliance with rules and regulations while discharging administra-

    tive, fiscal, and managerial responsibilities; the managerial accountability

    is concerned with the efficiency and effectiveness in the use of resources.

    Program accountability pays attention to results of government operations,

    and, finally, process accountability emphasizes the procedures and meth-

    ods of operation (see Carino, L.V. Administrative Accountability: A

    Review of the Evolution, Meaning and Operationalization of a Key Termin Public Administration. Philippines Journal of Public Administration,

    1983, XXVII (2), 118148). Likewise, Romzek and Dubnick separate four

    major types of accountability: bureaucratic, legal, political, and profes-

    sional. Bureaucratic accountability stresses the need to follow the rules and

    procedures and close supervision. Legal accountability emphasizes on a

    fiduciary or principal-agent relationship and advocates auditing, monitor-

    ing, and other oversights. Political accountability focuses on the extent of

    the responsiveness to the constituency. Finally, professional accountability

    emphasizes the placement of experts in organizational positions whoseactions are guided by integrity and professionalism (Romzeck, B.S.;

    Dubnick, M.J. Accountability in the Public Sector: Lessons from the

    Challenger Tragedy. In Introduction to Public Administration: A Book of

    Readings, J.S. Ott and E.W. Russel, Eds. Longman, 2001.

    4. SeeNew Straits Times, April 29 and May 24, 2002.

    5. The Prime Ministers Department could be seen as another manifestation

    of the powerful executive in Malaysia. It is by far the most powerful unit

    within the government not only because it is headed by the Prime Minister

    but more so because it includes important agencies like the EconomicPlanning Unit, the Public Service Commission, the Elections Commission,

    the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), MAMPU, the Attorney Generals

    Office, and the National Oil Corporation.

    6. In fact, the growth and expansion of bureaucracy in terms of personnel

    employed and public expenditure incurred until 1990 was remarkable. An



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    128 Siddiquee

    estimate shows that between 1960 and 1990 the Malaysian public service

    witnessed a four-fold increase in the number of staff employed. On the

    other hand, public expenditure increased almost 20 times during the sameperiod.

    7. Bedlington, S.S. Malaysia and Singapore: The Building of New States,

    Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1978.

    8. Though the Public Officers (Conduct & Discipline) Regulations (1993)

    and civil and penal codes are among the rules that allow disciplinary

    actions against errant public servants, the most significant legal instru-

    ment to counter corruption in Malaysia, is the Anti-Corruption Act (1997)

    (Act 575) that provides detailed framework for dealing with bribery and

    other forms of corruption in the public service.9. Noor, Z.M. Anti-Corruption Mechanism and Strategies: The Malaysian

    Experience, 2001,Mimeo.

    10. Quah, J.S.T. Bureaucratic Corruption in ASEAN Countries: A Compar-

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    Asian Studies, 1982, 13 (1), 153177.

    11. Mansor, N.; Nordin, A. Public AccountabilityThe Malaysian Case. In

    Issues and Challenges for National Development, Selected Papers Pre-

    sented at the 21st Anniversary Conference of the Faculty of Economics

    and Administration, University of Malaya, 1990; 267288.12. Ho, K.L. Bureaucratic Accountability in Malaysia: Control Mechanisms

    and Critical Concerns. InHandbook of Comparative Public Administra-

    tion in the Asia Pacific Basin, Wong, H-K; Chan, H.S., Eds.; Marcel Dek-

    ker Inc.: New York, 1999;, 2345.

    13. Mansor, N.; Nordin, A. Op. Cit.

    14. Ho, K.L. Op. Cit.

    15. Sarji, A. The Civil Service of Malaysia: Towards Efficiency and Effective-

    ness, Government of Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, 1996.

    16. Chee, S. Public Accountability in Malaysia: Form and Substance. In Pub-lic Administration in the 1990s: Challenges and Opportunities, Pradhan,

    G.B.N; Reforma, M.A., Eds.; EROPA: Manila, 1991; 105126.

    17. Funston, J. Malaysia: Developmental State Challenged. In Government

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    Asian Studies: Singapore, 2001;. 160202.

    18. Xavier, J.A. Managing for Accountability. InReengineering the Public

    Service: Leadership and Change in an Electronic Age, Karim, M.R.A.,

    Ed.; Pelanduk Publications: Kuala Lumpur, 1999.

    19. Sivalingam, G.; Peng Y.S. The System of Political and AdministrativeCorruption in a West Malaysian State, The Philippine Journal of Public

    Administration, 1991 XXXV (3), 264286.

    20. SeeNew Straits Times, May 23, 2002.

    21. New Straits Times, April 15, 2002.



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    Public Accountability in Malaysia 129

    22. The 1999 annual report of the ACA reveals that 245 posts remained

    vacant in 1999 out of 1227 sanctioned positions.

    23. Even though it is justified as a means to insulate the agency from the pres-sures of the ruling party and to accord the ACA a very high status within

    administrative hierarchy, it is fraught with danger of politicization. The

    experience shows that elsewhere such an arrangement has facilitated the

    abuse of the anticorruption agency by the executive to hide its misdeeds

    and those of its close allies and at the same time to harass the political

    opponents. Thus, instead of helping curb malfeasance and abuse of

    power, it may serve as a political tool in the hands of the government.

    24. Mansor, N.; Nordin, A. Op. Cit.

    25. Ibid.26. Chee, S. Op. Cit.

    27. Jain, R.B. Political Control of Bureaucracy in India. The Indian Journal of

    Public Administration, 1998, XLIV (1), 116.

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