Elevate Malaysian sports – adopt ratings system to promote integrity, rid itself of dishonest practices

There was a beeline at last Thursday’s Corruption-Free Pledge ceremony in Stadium Juara, Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur.

Sports officials, representatives from the ministry, its agencies and national sports associations clamoured to take photos with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki and Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu.

One could be forgiven for thinking that for some of the attendees, that was the highlight of the event.

While the turnout was pretty decent, a handful of those present wondered: ‘What’s next?’.

As Azam had rightfully pointed out, the ministry had embarked on a similar pledge in 2017. In fact, Azam was at that event, held at Menara KBS in Putrajaya, when Khairy Jamaluddin was the youth and sports minister.

The 2017 event was slightly over a year after the ministry was rocked by a scandal that saw the misappropriation of funds amounting to RM100 million, by a senior official.

What has happened since 2017? Has the ministry, its agencies and associations truly embraced the notion of a corrupt-free administration, and upheld transparency and accountability?

The perfect opportunity to demonstrate accountability and transparency to the taxpayers is by providing detailed accounts of the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games. Yet, there has been no drive by the ministry, nor the government, to make the figures public.

Azam also pointed out that sports bodies are categorised as public bodies under the MACC Act 2009.

Yet, sports organisations are reluctant to disclose their expenditure. Even the salaries of directors in public listed companies are revealed annually, but not sports associations.

Corruption is not just limited to the misappropriation of funds. It also covers fraudulent conduct and abuse of power.

In his speech on Thursday, Ahmad Faizal highlighted a particular sports body that is embroiled in controversy, in relation to the misappropriation of funds. He stopped short of naming the association. Many in the hall, however, knew who he was referring to.

Instead of just words and pledges, the Sports Commissioner’s Office should adopt a certification-type scheme that would rate sports organisations based on their capabilities. Such a rating would help in determining the distribution of funds, where only well-governed sports bodies would be given grants.

Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA), the world’s leading organisation for sport integrity, established the SIGA Independent Rating and Verification System, better known as SIRVS.

The system measures and quantifies an organisation’s compliance with standards of governance, integrity, transparency, and accountability, and is also audited by the British Standards Institute.

This provides a safety net for fans, sponsors, and investors. The European Rugby League was the first to receive a SIRVS certification. The sports organisation will then be evaluated every 12 months.

Some might say that most sports organisations are made up of volunteers, and as such, do not have the means and manpower to commit to such a certification process, which could be taxing and tedious.

Critics should then ask themselves if sports officials in Malaysia would be happy with just being mediocre, or if they wanted a better, a more respected standing in the eyes of the world.

There are many Malaysians who are world-class administrators. If they can be a part of international organisations that continuously try to uphold integrity, shouldn’t we demand the same, here at home?

Corruption-free pledges mean nothing if those within the sports scene are generally ignorant about sport integrity, accountability, transparency, and creating safe spaces, especially for women and youths.