Battling corruption in Malaysia:
What can be learned?
Nur Shafiqa Kapeli
Faculty of Accountancy, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Malaysia, and
Accounting Research Institute, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Malaysia
Purpose –Corruption is a serious problemin Southeast Asian countries. Based on the average ranking of
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Malaysia is ranked as the second least corrupt
country among Southeast Asiancountries. However, this country is still facing problems in its ﬁght against
corruption, in which efforts undertaken to prevent corruption have been said to be “unsatisfactory.”The
purpose of this paper is hence to examine previousliterature for the possible factors affecting the success of
anti-corruptionefforts in Malaysia.
Design/methodology/approach –This study analyzes previous studies conducted on Malaysia’s
experiencesin its ﬁght against corruption.
Findings –The ﬁndings of this paper indicate four attributes that lead to the failure of anti-corruption
efforts in Malaysia.
Originality/value –This paper will be usefulfor scholars, policymakers and anti-corruptionpractitioners
who are interestedin Malaysia’s experiences in ﬁghting corruption.
Keywords Malaysia, Corruption, Southeast Asian, Anti-corruption initiatives,
Paper type Conceptual paper
Corruption can be deﬁned as “the misuse of public power, ofﬁce or authority for private
beneﬁt through bribery, extortion, inﬂuence peddling, nepotism, fraud, speed money or
embezzlement”(UNDP, 1999). This deﬁnition is useful, as it includes not only bureaucratic
and political corruptionbut also private sector corruption. This is as:
[...] private sector is involved in most cases of government corruption, which includes the misuse
of money or favours for personal gains, abuse of oﬃcial authority or inﬂuence in exchange for
money to acquire special personal advantages (UNDP, 1999).
Corruption is one of the most serious problems among SoutheastAsian countries. Based on
a recent survey conducted by TransparencyInternational through its Corruption Perception
Index (CPI), Singapore was ranked as the least corrupt country, followed by Malaysia,
Thailand, the Philippines and others. Table I shows the average ranking of 11 Southeast
Asian countries on CPIfrom 2012 to 2016.
Among the 11 SoutheastAsian countries listed out in Table I, only Singapore was said to
be “successful”in addressing problems of corruption. Other countries, including Malaysia,
was said to be “less successful”or “failed”in their ﬁght against corruption. What is more
frustrating is that efforts to prevent corruption in Malaysia and Singapore started on the
same foundation, as these two countries were once British colonies. According to Caiden
(2013), the success of anti-corruption initiatives in a ﬁght against corruption is determined
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.26 No. 2, 2019
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