Malaysia scored 4.3 in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2011 (PDF/2.69MB/7 pages) which indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 10 means that a country is perceived as very clean. Malaysia ranks number 60 out of the 183 nations that appear in the Index.

There is increasing public resentment with corruption and bribery in Malaysia, especially from those in the public eye. Recently, Reuters reports that a government minister’s husband was charged with misusing nearly MYR50 million (approximately USD16 million) allocated for a public farming project. The situation is such that the authorities are enlisting the help of taxi drivers “to act as the graftbuster’s “eyes and ears” on the ground,” reports Yow Hong Chieh at The Malaysian Insider.

The principal legislation in Malaysia relating to anti-corruption is the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 (Act) (PDF/604KB/65 pages). The Act prohibits any person (by himself or through another) from soliciting or accepting gratification or from offering or giving gratification. Gratification is given a wide meaning under the Act and is not limited to pecuniary bribes and can extend to any service or favour.

The Act applies equally to public officials (both domestic and foreign) and private individuals and so prohibits both public and commercial bribery. The Act does not contain any defences for de minimis payments or for having adequate compliance procedures. There is no exemption for facilitation payments although guidance is available on giving gifts or providing hospitality to public officials in the Guidelines for Giving and Receiving Gifts in the Public Service (No. 3 of 1998). The Act also has extraterritorial effect and applies to offences by Malaysian citizens or permanent residents outside and within Malaysia.

The penalties for bribery can be imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine which is the greater of (i) not less than five times the sum/value of the gratification where it is capable of being valued or is of a pecuniary nature; or (ii) MYR10,000 (approximately USD3,200).