It is vital to declare assets
FOR many years there have been repeated calls for transparency and full public disclosure of assets of elected and public officials, as this goes a long way towards improving the confidence of Malaysian citizens and foreign investors in the integrity, accountability and good governance of the government.
Asset declaration requires all public officials to declare their income, asset, liabilities and financial interests.
There is a growing trend in many countries toward requiring public officials to honestly do so, not just for themselves but increasingly also for the assets and income of spouses, children and other immediate family members.
According to the 1999 Organic Act on Counter Corruption, all political office-holders and high-ranking public officials in Thailand must make full disclosure of all assets and liabilities, including those of their spouses and minor children.
The National Counter Corruption Commission is responsible for publishing the financial disclosures of a number of the highest ranking public officials in the Government Gazette.
Today Filipinos have had the right to review financial disclosures of all public officials and employees, including their spouses and unmarried minor children living in their households., pursuant to Section 8 of the 1989 Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has posted the asset declaration of Congress and the Cabinet in an online database.
The main aim of asset declaration is to prevent corruption.
It is also to increase transparency and the trust of the public administration, to prevent conflicts of interest, illicit enrichment, and false accusations of their wealth and to monitor wealth of politicians and public servants.
This is a valid demand because they hold power over the allocation of resources and their salaries are paid through the public tax contribution.
It is noted that political parties were ranked as the most corrupt among top six key institutions in Malaysia, ahead of the police and civil servants based on the Malaysian Corruption Barometer (MCB) 2014.
With political parties being perceived as the institution or organisation worst affected by corruption based on (MCB) 2014, to counter this perception it is even more important for such entities and connected individuals to declare their assets.
An effective asset declaration system and a mechanism to verify them can reduce abuse of power and corruption.
If leaders are seen to live beyond their means, which is the most common red flag, an asset declaration can be a starting point for investigations by the relevant enforcement agencies if there is a reasonable ground to believe that he is living beyond his means.
Studies shows that an asset declaration which is open to public scrutiny is a way for the public to ensure that leaders do not abuse their power for personal gain.
Published information on a person’s assets allows civil society to hold leaders to account.
While the declaration of assets should not only be done periodically and kept on record by an effective independent body, it is also appropriate to have forensic accounting experts and investigators to monitor the assets periodically.
An asset profiling system should be introduced soon to determine how much assets personnel are expected to have, based on their positions, years of service and their present and past emoluments.
Asset profiling should also include those of their spouses, dependents and immediate family members along with any business interest, or institutions they may be part of.
As such, it becomes very necessary for the politicians and public servants to be honest and maintain integrity.
They must emulate the good examples set by some of our pioneering politicians irrespective of their political affliction in going all out to fight corruption, both in word and deed. Datuk Akhbar Sattar The STAR News Opinion Saturday, 27 August 2016
Also: Datuk Akhbar Satar NST Opnion Letters August 30, 2016 http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/08/169245/importance-asset-declaration