National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2024-2028 (NACS): Recent governance controversies underscore urgent need to improve and implement NACS measures

1 JULY 2024


On 7 May 2024, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim launched the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2024-2028 (NACS). The NACS is a continuation of Malaysia’s National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023 (NACP) which provides a framework to address and combat corruption by improving governance and strengthening integrity, transparency, and accountability in public service administration. 

However, since the launch of the policy, a slew of governance controversies have dominated headlines, which include: 

  • The reappointment of Azam Baki as MACC Chief Commissioner
  • The Selangor state government’s appointment of Asia Mobiliti which raised major questions of conflict of interest
  • The appointment of Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi as TalentCorp chairperson
  • The involvement of Federal Ministers in campaigns for the Sungai Bakap by-election

Will full implementation of the NACS prevent the recurrence of governance scandals such as those listed above? In its current form, the NACS suffers from several key weaknesses that will likely limit its effectiveness. Below, the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) highlights three urgent areas of improvement to the NACS that must be addressed in light of recent events, namely:

  • Limitations in using the Corruption Perception Index ranking to measure success
  • Inadequacies in the monitoring and evaluation process of NACS implementation
  • The NACS’ omission of several key reforms

1. Targeting a top 25 ranking in the Corruption Perception Index

Among the key metrics of success in the NACS is to rank among the top-25 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) within the next ten years. While the ambition is commended, there are several important criticisms of using the CPI as the main indicator of success in the fight against corruption.

What is more important – country ranking or score?

The CPI measures how corrupt each country’s public sector is perceived to be. Scores are calculated by utilising data collected from corruption surveys and assessments, from sources including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum. Subsequently, countries are ranked according to their score and the index is published.

Importantly, Transparency International itself states on its website that “[t]he rank is… not as important as the score in terms of indicating the level of corruption in that country.” This is because rankings are dependent on the performance of other countries, and may not reflect actual changes in the perception of corruption in a particular country. A country’s rank can even change if the number of countries included in the index changes.

To illustrate, Malaysia ranked higher in 2022 (61/180) than in 2021 (62/180). However, Malaysia’s score was higher in 2021, at 48/100 compared to 47/100 the following year. As such, the higher rank did not reflect an improvement in the perception of corruption in Malaysia. 

Achieving a top 25 ranking in the CPI would be a significant improvement for Malaysia relative to its current position. However, the main focus must be on how much Malaysia’s score has improved as it would better reflect improvement under the CPI. A better approach would have been to identify a score for Malaysia to achieve, from which a respectable CPI ranking would follow. 

What do CPI Indicators measure?

An improvement under the CPI also does not necessarily mean that all forms of corruption are being adequately overcome. Here, closer attention must be paid to the criteria employed by Transparency International to measure the score for a given country. They include, among others:

  • Bribery
  • Diversion of public funds
  • Access to information on public affairs/government activities
  • Nepotistic appointments in the civil service
  • Ability of governments to contain corruption in the civil service
  • Legal protection for people who report cases of bribery and corruption
  • Laws ensuring that public officials must disclose their finances and potential conflicts of interest

Importantly, the CPI does not take into account major areas of corruption such as tax fraud, illicit financial flows, money laundering, enablers of corruption, and private sector corruption, among others. This absence is especially notable for the Malaysian context as the aforementioned areas of corruption are common elements of grand corruption – infamous local cases include the SRC International case and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Thus, while CPI improvement can be considered progress, it does not necessarily mean that all forms of corruption, especially grand corruption, are being addressed. The NACS and government agencies implementing the policy must be particularly cognisant of the limitations of the CPI and ensure that such gaps are also addressed by the policy.

2. Inadequate Monitoring and Evaluation Processes

According to the NACS, 85 out of the 111 NACP initiatives were completed, amounting to 77%. However, it is ambiguous as to what is considered “completed” and how the impact of this completion is measured.

For example, Initiatives 1.1.6 and 1.1.7 of the NACP – which stipulate the establishment of independent committees to handle Election Commission (EC) issues such as appointments – were reported “completed” following the creation of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Election in 2019. Despite this, it remains questionable whether the supposed completion of the initiative has led to a positive impact on EC governance. In 2024, the government appointed Sapdin Ibrahim and Lee Bee Phang as EC members without going through the Special Select Committee. Subsequently, on 26 June 2024, the government appointed Ramlan Harun as the new EC Chairperson in a similar fashion.

Hence, the claims that 85 out of 111 NACP initiatives were completed cannot be taken at face value as completion does not take into consideration actual impact of the initiative and should not be uncritically accepted as progress.

Furthermore, there exist several initiatives marked as “completed”, when in actuality a watered down version was passed in its stead. As an illustration, Initiative 5.3.4 in the NACP targeted the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). Instead, parliament established the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC), a body widely criticised for lacking independence and sufficient powers to combat police misconduct, which were present in proposals for the IPCMC. However, the NACS reported that this initiative was completed, despite the clear weaknesses of the IPCC.

These examples bring into question the actual impact of NACP initiatives reported as completed. The NACS must not repeat the same mistake. In assessing implementation and impact of NACS reforms, the government must ensure that it does not devolve from a genuine attempt to increase accountability and combating corruption into a box-ticking exercise to boost public perception. Completion of NACS initiatives must be clearly explained and impact must be measured and quantified through quantifiable data and achievements.

CSO Involvement

In addition, the evaluation mechanism of the NACS does not explicitly include participation from civil society organisations (CSOs). Although there exist sub-strategies aiming to amplify the voice of civil society under Strategy 3 of the NACS, CSOs are not explicitly mentioned in the monitoring and evaluation of the NACS. Instead, this process appears to be a largely intergovernmental affair – the MACC serves as a secretariat for the NACS, and works alongside lead agencies, the Special Cabinet Committee on National Governance (JKKTN) and the National Governance Committee (JTK) to produce monitoring and evaluation reports. 

CSOs are crucial to the monitoring and evaluation of a policy – especially one as crucial as the NACS – as they provide critical and independent perspectives from the public that can often be overlooked by bureaucracy. Furthermore, CSOs are often specialised in their work and can offer expert advice to complement government study. Finally, it is imperative that public feedback is incorporated into the assessment of the NACS – failure to do so creates the perception that the government can simply announce successes without a critical view.

3. Omission of Key Reforms in the NACS

Several crucial institutional reforms not achieved under the NACP have either been left out of or completely reworded in the NACS. This includes separating the office of the Attorney General (AG) and Public Prosecutor (PP), amending the Federal Constitution and State Constitutions to limit the term of Office for the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and Menteri Besar, and introducing a written law on the declaration of assets and interests by Members of Parliament, among others. 

Separation of Attorney General and Public Prosecutor

In the case of separating the AG’s office, the NACS mentions that the reform has been assigned to other government committee meetings at national level. Considering the major implications of this reform on governance, it would be prudent for the NACS to integrate its implementation within the country’s overall anti-corruption strategy. By vaguely delegating its enactment to other parties, questions now arise as to whether the reform will even be implemented at all. 

C4 Center urges the government to reintroduce this reform as an NACS initiative with a clear path to implementation. Alternatively, the government must clarify its timeline and strategy for the implementation of the reform.

A Written Law on Asset Declaration

Concerning an asset declaration law, the original NACP had it listed under Initiative 1.2.9 as, “to introduce a written law on the declaration of asset and interest by Members of Parliament”, which clearly outlines a need for elected representatives to reveal their financial assets transparently. However, in the NACS, the plan has been reworded as, “to introduce a mechanism for declaration of interest and gift by members of the administration and members of Parliament” under Strategy 2.12, dropping the use of the word “asset” entirely. This misrepresents the original intentions behind the NACP’s initiative, and its exclusion has worrying ramifications for transparency in the country. 

An asset declaration law is fundamental for transparency and holding public servants – especially politicians – accountable for maladministration. An asset declaration law is critical in preventing abuse of power and amassment of wealth by politicians and civil servants, particularly through illicit means. The lack of initiative for the aforementioned reform exhibits a failed commitment by the MADANI Government, especially since Pakatan Harapan had previously pledged an asset declaration law in their 2022 manifesto during the last General Election.

Limiting Terms of Office for the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and Menteri Besar

Plans to limit the terms of office for the heads of government at both federal and state levels were first touted in the original NACP. Yet this proposal has been omitted in the NACS, with it not even being acknowledged in Appendix 1 of the NACS titled, “NACP Initiatives That Could Not Be Completed as of December 2023”, despite next to no progress having been made on its implementation. 

A fundamental step in safeguarding the country from abuse of power is by instituting term limits for those holding the highest offices in the government. Term limits ensure that no single individual can maintain their grip on power for too long, no matter how influential or popular they may be. Our country has already witnessed the dangers that the lack of term limits have, with Tun Dr Mahathir’s tenure as Prime Minister widely remembered for the length of his rule, which oversaw the institutionalising of money politics and crony capitalism. Limiting the power of the Executive is crucial to strengthening the independence of public institutions, and it is highly concerning that the NACS has completely ignored such a fundamental reform.


Despite these concerns, the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) believes that many initiatives and objectives in the NACS are pragmatic and achievable. Due to the smaller number of reform initiatives compared to the NACP, the government should be able to dedicate more time and effort on proper and effective implementation. However, C4 Center stresses that any completion rate below 100% for the NACS should be considered a major failure by the government. Additionally, C4 Center reiterates its disappointment at the dilution and omission of several key reforms critical in improving governance. As such, C4 Center urges the government to:

  • Set a CPI score target instead of a ranking target to measure the success of the NACS 
  • Improve the monitoring and evaluation process of the NACS, especially by directly involving CSOs in assessment and feedback
  • Reintroduce key reforms either omitted by the NACS or not effectively implemented by the NACP.


Issued by:
Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center)
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