KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 – When the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) annual report 2012 and the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board 2012 annual report was presented to Parliament, in which the MACC outlined achievements in combating corruption in Malaysia, the body was probably rejoicing for reaching new levels of success in its efforts to curb corruption. In its 2012 report, the MACC revealed having received 5,496 complaints of corruption and opened 1,078 papers with the arrests of 701 people. Conviction rate was at a high of 85%, an increase from 75% in 2011, 71% in 2010 and 54% in 2009, with a total fine of RM14,570,799 collected from those charged. In the report, the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board also appraised MACC for its implementation of various measures to combat corruption, which raised Malaysia’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) scores, an indication that the country is slowly heading towards a decrease in level of corruption. Malaysia also took the 54thspot in 2012, up a few spots from its 60thposition in 2011. But the MACC barely had time to celebrate its new high before groups jumped at the chance to scrutinise the report, a recurring trend of late. Where some pointed out the setting up of additional agencies as a bad solution to putting a stop to corruption, others lamented over the confidence level of Malaysians in MACC’s true power. The fact is that the perception of MACC’s power to prosecute highly corrupt individuals and groups in Malaysia has for a long time remained skewed towards its lack in will to push stronger through the barriers. Some have even called MACC a “toothless tiger”, implying its lack of political will to take serious charge of the fight against corruption. The frustration of many Malaysians lies in the fact that many high-profile cases have yet to make it to court, and much of it has to do with political links that are difficult for the MACC to get by, being under the Prime Minister’s Department. In 2004, former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi tried his best to crack down on the issue by announcing the probing of 18 high-profile cases. At that time, two high profile arrests were made involving former Perwaja Steel managing director Tan Sri Eric Chia and then land and co-operative development minister Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam, both of whom were eventually acquitted. Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is another who is frequently the target of many groups who have called for his resignation and for him and his family to be investigated by the MACC. But no case has yet been opened or presented against him or many others, be it in the private or civil sectors. The MACC did address the issue in its report, stating that it recognised that among the issues often raised include the refusal or delay of MACC to investigate high-profile cases involving dignitaries. It attributes the delay to the complexity and difficulty in obtaining evidence, while explaining that there are cases that go beyond the border that make it difficult to acquire evidence and testimonies of individuals outside the country. While justifiable, the question that still looms is whether hard-hitting evidence can eventually succeed in securing a conviction in court, bearing in mind the extensive power of high-level politicians in this country. In this case, it’s clearly going to take more than statistical number to convince Malaysians that we are on the upward track.