Last March the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that all elected representatives in the Government had to declare their assets within three months from the date they were sworn in. The requirement to declare assets and interests is also provided for by the Code of Ethics for Members of Parliament. However, before that the declarations submitted to the Prime Minister were confidential.
From now on the copies of declarations will be forwarded to the Malaysian Anti-corruption Commission (MACC) that will publish them on the portal. At the time of writing this note, the portal was down for “technical maintenance”; however, according to the MACC it had displayed asset information involving 57 of the 70 members of the government administration.
At the same time, the country does not have any legal acts regulating the disclosure of assets by MPs and other categories of top public officials. Public officials should submit their declarations and are subject to sanctions for the failure to do so under the 1993 Public Officers’ Regulations (Conduct and Discipline) and Service Circular No. 3/2002 - Ownership and Declaration of Asset by Public Officer, whilst ministers, MPs and judges are obliged to disclose their assets only in accordance with their respective codes of conduct. However, the procedure and deadlines for submitting and processing declarations, and sanctioning for the failure to provide information are not imposed by any act: the MACC can use the data contained in declarations only in the event that a case arises against an official.
Therefore, the declarations submitted by MPs and other top public officials have actually failed to fulfill their major function so far, i.e. to constitute a source of information about manifestations of corruption offences, illicit enrichment or conflicts of interest.
In this context some experts (see for instance, here and here) stress that Malaysia needs to adopt a comprehensive legislation focused on the disclosure of assets and interests. Earlier this year the MACC supported this position and made a proposal to draft a law which would oblige MPs to disclose their assets. It is reported that the bill may be tabled at the end of this year. Along with the law the country may also get an online declaration system for top public officials (ordinary civil servants submit their declarations through the Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS)).