Generating best value for taxpayers’ money: How to improve transparency and accountability in Malaysia’s public contracting system

July 2nd, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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The Malaysian government has embarked on initiatives to improve transparency in government procurement since 2010. More information about procurement activities are now available for the public. However there is room for improvement. The paper proposes the following five steps to improve this initiative.

First, incorporate new rules to the current procurement process/cycle to improve its transparency and accountability including the mandatory requirement to publish a procurement plan, allowing contractors to review the results, and publish more detailed information on awarded contracts.

Second, facilitate greater public involvement in ensuring the transparency and accountability of government contracting, while strengthening investigation processes and punitive actions.

Third, streamline various govenment electronic platforms that currently exist has to create a credible, efficient and transparent procurement system.

Fourth, enhance the professionalism and integrity of procurement officers.

Last but not least, ensure public private partnership projects (PPPs) follow the same transparency rules as government contracting.

The recommendations are the result of research and dialogue activities carried out by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) over nine months between July 2013 to March 2014. This paper elaborates upon these five recommendations in greater detail.

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Transparency in European public procurement: benefits and lessons for Malaysia

January 15th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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Malaysia has rather robust procurement regulations that compel agencies to implement the principles of transparency, value for money, and fair dealings in procurement activities. However, there are areas in which Malaysia can improve especially to encourage competition and innovation. The paper outlines measures that can be adopted by the Malaysiangovernment to improve the competitiveness and transparency of its procurement system. These measures are inspired by the European Procurement system that is explored in the first part of the paper along with the benefits associated with greater transparency in public procurement.

Transparency is one of the core principles in EU procurement. It is required in all stages of procurement, but particularly in three phases of tendering, evaluation and review in order to ensure non discrimination and equal treatment. The paper describes how the principles of transparency is applied in these stages.

The four measures advocated by the paper are as follows: (1) contracting agencies should add clearer and more detailed evaluation criteria in tender notices or tender documents, (2) contracting agencies should provide information about the reasons for choosing certain contractors and rejecting others to both winning and losing contractors as well as to the public, (3) a review phase should be incorporated into the system to allow contractors to fi le for complaints if they are not happy with the decisions made by the agencies and (4) the government should create parameters to ensure Bumiputera preferences in government procurement are less distortive to competition and are awarded in a transparent manner.

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Market solutions to education crisis

December 10th, 2013 by admin Categories: Governance, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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The performance of Malaysian students in the PISA 2012 rankings once again left the nation wondering when copious amounts of public expenditure on education would translate to markedly improved results. Malaysian students showed some improvement in Mathematics moving up 17 points to 421, a two point decrease in Science at 420, and a 16 point decrease in Reading at 398. These results mean that not only do average Malaysian students perform well below the average OECD student, but they also fare worse than students in countries such as Thailand and Chile. This paper, first published by the Cato Institute,  looks at the failures of the government education system in the United States and argues that markets can provide better quality education through vouchers & choice, profit-making schools, entrepreneurial educationists and contracting out of certain services. The paper goes on to look at how and why lessons from this paper are relevant to the highly centralised Malaysian education system, and why education reform should focus on the child if the country aspires to move up in global education rankings.

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The hardware and the software to overcome a middle-income trap

November 5th, 2013 by admin Categories: Governance, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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No economy has ever been able to sustain membership in the high-income, developed-country league without having first adopted the institutions of secure private property rights and their free, competitive use under the rule of law that treats all citizens equally. These institutions (or rules) can be called the ‘software of free-market capitalism’. These basic rules of conduct make it easier for people to incur the transaction costs of innovation and to interact productively with each other in an increasingly complex, dynamic economy. Interventionism, income redistribution and crony politics weaken or destroy these essential institutions. They are therefore likely to lock the economy into a middle-income trap’, apart from creating political tensions and growing social instability. To develop the ‘software’ of economic development, social scientists and policy analysts must go beyond technical analysis and engage in moral discussions. This is a challenge that only the young in the countries concerned can tackle, if they want to create a better, freer and more prosperous future for themselves.

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Key failings in the Malaysian public procurement system and how they can be addressed by greater transparency

October 1st, 2013 by admin Categories: Governance, Policy Ideas, Publications 2 Responses
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The Malaysian government has established an official system of procurement which conforms to a certain extent to international standards. However, Auditor General Reports repeatedly highlight cases of procured goods, services and works that are being paid for well above market prices, under-utilised, and substandard. The paper argues that these problems may be caused by inadequate procurement planning and poor drafting of specifications, insufficient use of open competitive tendering and lack of monitoring and evaluation. The paper further argues that by putting more comprehensive transparency measures and addressing problems that have been hampering transparency initiatives such as political interference and continued use of direct negotiation, Malaysia will be able to address those problems and reap full benefit of transparent procurement system.

Among transparency measures specifically recommended by this paper are disclosure of procurement planning and non-performing contractors and suppliers, and allowing outside observers such as representatives from the Auditor General’s Office or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), and relevant business organisations to attend procurement board meetings.

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After GE13: Strengthening democracy in Malaysia

August 1st, 2013 by admin Categories: Governance, Policy Ideas, Publications No Responses
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The outcome of Malaysia’s 13th General Election (GE13) is still contested. Some argue that since Pakatan Rakyat won the popular vote, Barisan Nasional therefore does not have the legitimacy to rule. But all political parties entered the election knowing that popular vote is not the deciding factor in a parliamentary system. Popular vote cannot be the basis to protest against the elected government, but it can be used to call for reform of the political system especially the electoral system.

Positing that a healthy democratic system is the best legacy we can pass to future generations, this paper takes the premise that there is now an opportunity to deepen democracy in Malaysia by moving on and focusing on issues that matter.

Democracy in Malaysia is a legacy to be cherished. Many developing countries have not been able to build strong democratic institutions. But we have these institutions today and we urgently need to strengthen them.

Reforming the electoral processes is a key step to deepen democracy in Malaysia. Creating a parliamentary committee to oversee the Election Commission (EC) may be a step in the right direction, but replacing the EC leadership with one that can command more public trust would be a much stronger step. Once that is done, it would be necessary to look into the unequal constituency apportionment, political financing, and press freedom. All are important to improve the
democratic election of a government.

The paper also discusses other important reforms to deepen democratic governance, such as the need to distribute power to other levels of government, strengthening the role of civil society and parliament in providing check and balance, creating healthy interaction between government and opposition, and ensuring positive relationship between the federal and state governments regardless of which party is in power.

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WAS GE13 FREE AND FAIR?

May 8th, 2013 by admin Categories: Governance, Governance, Opinion, Publications 5 Responses
WAS GE13 FREE AND FAIR?
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IDEAS was accredited by the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) to observe the recently concluded 13th General Elections. Our mandate was to observe, record, analyse and report events leading up to GE13, and subsequently recommend ways to improve any weaknesses found. We benchmarked our observation against the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections. We deployed 325 observers to 99 parliamentary constituencies in Peninsula Malaysia and 6 overseas polling centres.

Generally, we found that EC successfully ensured the overall process between nomination day and election day proceeded smoothly without any major glitches. Complaints have been filed about the possibility of phantom voters and the failure of the indelible ink to work as it should. Both are important issues that must be addressed. However, we position these two issues in the context of the wider lack of trust in the integrity of the electoral roll, instead of simply a weakness of the EC. In order to address the root cause of the problem, serious attention must be given to improving the integrity of the electoral roll. This involves improving the integrity of the National Registration Department’s database, which may not be within the EC’s purview.

It is important to examine the events building up to GE13 in order to get a better perspective. Taking a long-term view, we saw that (1) The media was heavily biased in favour of Barisan Nasional. State-funded media platforms have been abused to project partisan views to the public; (2) There were doubts about the EC’s impartiality and competency despite their many efforts to improve the electoral system. They were seen as being part of an already biased civil service. The fact that EC members repeatedly issued statements that could be construed as partisan did not help. Their defensiveness when criticised further angered the public; (3) Trust in the integrity of the electoral roll is low. This resulted in the public being very cautious when there were reports of foreigners being flown in, when they saw foreign-looking individuals, or when the indelible ink was seen as ineffective; (4) The Registrar of Societies did not treat all political parties equally, delaying the registration process of non-BN partie; (5) Constituency sizes are too unequal, allowing parties that win many smaller seats to win parliament, despite not commanding popular support; (6) Financing of political parties is not transparent, resulting in a big lack of clarity about the financial standing of the competing parties; (7) During the campaigning period, government and armed forces facilities were repeatedly used for campaigning purposes during the official campaign period; (8) Racial issues were dangerously exploited for political gains. There were many instances of BN fishing for votes by sowing mistrust between the Chinese and Malay communities.

Therefore, although the official campaign period and electoral processes may have proceeded smoothly and with minimal major issues, wider issues that are not within the EC’s purview have built up over the last few years. These issues conspired against non-BN parties, therefore creating a very uneven field. Due to these reasons, we conclude that GE13 was only partially free and not fair.

- – -

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The Monarchy and The Constitution in Malaysia

January 21st, 2013 by admin Categories: Governance, Publications One Response

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Author: Abdul Aziz Bari

This book is a must read for those interested in the working of constitutional democracy in Malaysia for several reasons. Firstly, it deals with the legal issues in a comprehensive way. Unlike most law books that are opaque for lay readers, it is accessible even for non-lawyers due to the lucid way it deals with the subject. Secondly, it is the only work that deals with the legitimacy of the position and roles of the Malaysian monarchy in modern democracy – something that appeals not only to Malaysian but also to those from countries that still retain the institution. Originally a doctoral thesis, the book takes a look at the history and development of the monarchy in Malaysia, which provide the moral bases for its constitutional roles. This is essentially what the provisions in the current constitution are all about.

Even though the book deals mainly with the justifications for the continuance of the monarchy institution, it is nonetheless relevant for present-day issues and controversies as those justifications are basically the answers for those questions. These are also the standards by which to judge whether the actions – or inactions – taken by the rulers were justifiable. As such, even though the book does not deal with the more recent crises such as the Perak political crisis in 2009, one may find answers alluded to in the relevant chapters. This is one of the reasons why this book will continue to be relevant in years to come.

To purchase, you may:

a) Drop by Gerakbudaya showroom at the following address:
No. 11, Lorong 11/4E
46200 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: (603) 7957 8343/8342
Fax: (603) 7954 9202

b) Buy it online at bookshop.gerakbudaya.com or bookshop.gbgerakbudaya.com

c) Send an email to marketing@gerakbudaya.com

d) Get it from all major bookstores throughout Malaysia

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Understanding Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Malaysia: interim report

November 26th, 2012 by admin Categories: Governance, Publications 3 Responses

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This interim report is an attempt to compile the first “history” of the fight against corruption in Malaysia by providing an overview of initiatives taken by various agencies, groups and organisations over the last few decades. We are publishing this as an interim report in the hope that we can generate a debate and solicit feedback on the points that we raise. We fully appreciate that some of the issues we raise in this interim report may create disagreement among readers.

Further development of this report will require more input, assistance and advice from all parties. We wish to collate information and material on anti-corruption and the promotion of integrity from as many sources as possible. It is our hope that you can help us by sending us your inputs, criticism, and suggestions before 31 December 2012.

This interim report is organised in six chapters:
Chapter 1: The cost of corruption in Malaysia — this chapter describes the damages that can be or are being caused by corruption to Malaysia.
Chapter 2: A historical overview of efforts to combat corruption — this chapter provides an outline of legal and institutional provisions set up by the government to fight corruption in Malaysia since Independence in 1957.
Chapter 3: Examples of anti-corruption initiatives in Malaysia since 2004— this chapter describes the initiatives by the government, private sector and civil society organisations, from 2004 to 2012.
Chapter 4: Evaluation of the initiatives — this chapter critically looks at some of the initiatives discussed in the previous chapter and assesses their effectiveness.
Chapter 5: Preliminary conclusions and recommendations.
Chapter 6: Annotated bibliography — this chapter provides an annotated bibliography of selected
books and journal articles on anti-corruption and on promoting integrity, particularly in Malaysia.

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The Future of Pakatan Rakyat: Lesson from Selangor

July 23rd, 2012 by admin Categories: Governance, Publications No Responses

Author: Keith Leong Yu Keen, IDEAS Fellow

The Future of Pakatan Rakyat: Lessons from Selangor is a study on recent political developments in Malaysia, focusing on The Pakatan Rakyat coalition in Selangor. It is also an exploration of why effective opposition to the ruling Barisan Nasional has been so difficult thus far. Drawing upon previous scholarship on Malaysian politics, the author posits that this is due to the Malaysian state’s “syncretic” nature, in that its diversity makes a coherent struggle against the incumbents difficult. Nevertheless, the unprecedented changes in the Pakatan Rakyat parties and thorough socio-political change in Malaysian Society have made this possible for the first time.

To purchase, you may:

a) Drop by Gerakbudaya showroom at the following address:
No. 11, Lorong 11/4E
46200 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: (603) 7957 8343/8342
Fax: (603) 7954 9202

b) Buy it online at bookshop.gerakbudaya.com or bookshop.gbgerakbudaya.com

c) Send an email to marketing@gerakbudaya.com

d) Get it from all major bookstores throughout Malaysia

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