The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) and the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) call on the federal government and state governments to stop using the allocation of constituency development fund (CDF) as a political tool to buy political support and abusing it as an unfair advantage of incumbent government. Immediate reform must be instituted to ensure transparency, accountability and equitable allocation for all members of parliament and state assemblypersons.
BERSIH 2.0 and IDEAS release jointly today a report entitled “Removal or Reform: Charting the Way Forward for Malaysia’s Constituency Development Funds”.
The report, commissioned by BERSIH 2.0 and written by IDEAS, found that while CDF has the potential to address urgent development needs and gaps between constituencies, its effectiveness is marred by a lack of transparency and accountability, violation of the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature and distortion of political competition as it provides the elected representatives of the ruling party with better tools to influence voters’ choices, especially when the allocation of CDF is completely lopsided.
If the issues of transparency, political patronage and distortion of political competition are not addressed, CDF will lose its effectiveness and will in fact become counterproductive to constituency development and democracy of the nation.
In view of the serious pitfalls, BERSIH 2.0 and IDEAS call on the federal government and all state government to institute immediate and long-term reform to CDF policy.
In the immediate term, measures for transparency and accountability should be adopted. This may come in the form of CDF legislation to prevent arbitrary changes of CDF allocation by the government of the day. The legislation should stipulate the allocation formula for each constituency, the source of financing in the annual budget, the limit of the amount allocated for the CDFs annually, requirements for relevant agencies and lawmakers to publish key information about CDFs to the public, mechanisms for public participation in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of the CDFs and sanctions for misusing or embezzling the CDFs.
In the long term, MPs and ADUNs should no longer be the gatekeeper of the fund to
build basic infrastructure and address pressing constituency needs. Such roles should be given to local governments that are elected in order for MPs and ADUNs to focus on law and policymaking.
The MPs and ADUNs should continue to receive funding for their service centres. However, instead of coming from CDF, such funding should come from Parliament and State Assemblies.
Official public funding for political parties should be provided as an incentive to prevent ruling parties from abusing the allocation of CDF. This change will require political financing legislation.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 and IDEAS