KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's failure to resolve major corruption scandals is one of the main reasons the country fell seven spots to its worst-ever position in the annual Corruption Perceptions Index, an official of graft watchdog Transparency International (TI) said.
Malaysia fell to number 62 in the TI index last year, compared to its 55th ranking in 2016. This was the country's lowest position since the index was started in 1995.
"These scandals affected our score," said Transparency International-Malaysia chairman Akhbar Satar at the launch of the index on Thursday (Feb 22), as quoted by The Malaysian Insight (TMI) news site.
Until these scandals are resolved satisfactorily, Malaysia's ranking is likely to further fall in the next few years, he was quoted as saying, referring to state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd and agencies such as Felda.
Singapore, meanwhile, moved up one position to rank 6th in theTI index.
The Republic attained a score of 84 in the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2017.
This was the same as Singapore's score the year before, though it has now inched higher to share the 6th spot with Sweden.
Countries that took the top positions in the latest index, which ranked 180 countries, include New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Switzerland.
Malaysia, since its 2014 score of 52, has been dropping every year, passing the halfway score of 49 in 2016. It scored 47 points in 2017, TMI reported.
"We are at the same spot as Cuba. We should be better than them," Mr Akhbar told a news conference.
He said if it were not for the aggressive arrests by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over the past few years, Malaysia's ranking could have slipped further.
In response to the rankings, the MACC said its many anti-graft enforcement actions last year should have given Malaysia a higher ranking, The Star Online reported on Thursday.
MACC chief Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad said he was shocked with Transparency International's findings and the country's latest position.
"There has been enforcement action taken almost every week and high-profile arrests throughout last year. We have taken aggressive efforts to combat corruption but it (the report) did not reflect all of our work," he told a news conference after an event.
"We should be in a better position compared to 2016," he was quoted as saying.
Mr Dzulkifli said he was not dismissing the report and would study it further.
He noted that the perception index touched on other issues as well, such as governance, politics, human rights and the efficiency of doing business in the country, which is not under the purview of the MACC.