A renowned economist said that government agencies have failed in their task to tackle graft and financial leakages as shown by the latest Auditor General's Report.

Tan Sri Kamal Salih named the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Accounts Committee as those without "teeth" in fighting graft and wastage of public funds, which he said have now become a "culture".

“It’s a culture, people are in their comfort zone and they get away with a lot of things," said Kamal at a forum held at the launching of the book Malaysia@50 by prominent economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram and academic Wee Chong Hui.

Kamal said PAC's findings are not followed-up or debated, saying the committee only meets government officers and reviews issues raised by the Auditor-General. He said they then would go back to the government who would then tell them that "action has been taken".

The Auditor General's Report 2012 was released on October 1 and revealed multiple cases of corruption, overspending and wastage by civil servants, government-linked contractors and ministries.

From the flagrant abuse of government funds for a study trip abroad amounting to over RM300,000 to missing guns rumoured to have "fallen" into the ocean, the open disregard of the Auditor General’s findings has angered Malaysians.

Kamal, a former executive director of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), also took the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to task for not holding anyone accountable for graft.

“The AGC is also dysfunctional. There are a lot of distortions going on,” said the Universiti Malaya adjunct professor, who was himself a member of the PAC.

He also noted that poor accounting by government departments had consistently caused ministries to overspend and not helping the government to narrow its fiscal deficit.

“Malaysia’s operating budget has been going up very fast. The government needs to revise its accounting regularly instead of being 'surprised' when over-budgeting occurs,” said Kamal, who was once the Wangsa Maju Member of Parliament.

Malaysia has been facing a budget deficit – the amount the government spent over the amount it raised – of 4.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) last year. Meanwhile, its debt to GDP is at 53.1%, drawing close to the government-set ceiling of 55%.

Source: The Malaysian Insider