The number of people who believe that the government can tackle corruption has shrunk to its smallest in five years, the latest survey by Transparency International (Malaysia) shows.
The survey, in which face-to-face interviews were conducted with about 2,000 Malaysians from all 13 states, revealed that 45 percent of them were asked for a bribe in the past 12 months.
Conducted in March and April this year, it indicated that only 28 percent believe that the government is effective in tackling corruption.
In a similar 2013 survey, 31 percent said they agreed the government was effective.
The survey has not recorded such a small number of people who believing in the government's efforts since 2009, despite the reformist efforts of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
"We are back to the 2009 levels," TI-M president Akhbar Satar (right) said when releasing the survey results in Petaling Jaya today.
"We recommend the government change its strategy and get to the root cause of corruption."
Akhbar added that confidence levels were way off mark from the Najib administration’s target of 70 percent by 2015.
In the other years, TI-M's regular, countrywide surveys have often found 45 percent (2006), 53 percent (2007) and 49 percent (2011) of Malaysians usually agreeing that the government was effective in weeding out corruption.
Survey harsh for Najib
The latest survey is especially harsh for PM Najib, who has vowed to change public perception on corruption, after winning his first general election last year, since takig over as prime minister in 2009.
For this purpose, Najib appointed Paul Low (left), a former president of TI-M, as Malaysia's first so-called governance and transparency minister.
Akhbar declined to answer why Low's appointment does not seem to have helped the perception on corruption to improve.
"You have to ask him (Low)," Akhbar said when asked if Low was productive and if a year was fair time for Low to show some impact on the survey.
In his briefing to members of the media earlier, Akhbar had said that structural changes alone may not be enough to tackle such corruption.
"The government has put the structures in position but tougher measures are needed to curb corruption," Akhbar said. He added that even TI-M was changing its campaign style.
He noted that the younger generation must be reached via the social media, and TI-M had also done so through a recentYouTube video to ask Malaysians to "act blur" when asked for a bribe: "Do as kids do."
From the 45 percent of Malaysians who encountered this problem in the last one year, Akhbar noted, the survey indicated that they mostly greased government officers to "speed things up."
Bribes were paid to police, for utilities, to government registry/permit departments, and even to medical and educational institutions.
However, the survey, conducted jointly with consultant firm Frost and Sullivan, indicated an unexplained improvement in the overall perception of Malaysia's corruption trend.
Asked broadly about their perception of the corruption trend in Malaysia for the past two years, only 30 percent of the respondents felt it has increased. This was 10 percent less than the response in last year's survey.
Akhbar said he couldn't explain this result when paired with the people's lack of confidence in government measures against corruption.
But perhaps, a member of the survey team pointed out during the press conference, Malaysians were shy to talk bad about the country in front of the interviewers.