Is it time to revamp the civil service?

Is it time to revamp the civil service?


Now that the polls are over and the results are out, and Malaysia has a new government, it’s time to get down to work. With the dust yet to settle as political alliances within and between parties remain in a state of flux, Malaysia’s 92-year-old born-again Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when asked at a recent press conference if there will be any change to the existing civil service, indicated that some ‘heads must fall’ much to the amusement of those who were present.

With a whirlwind of change engulfing the Malaysian political landscape, the push for some form of reform is imminent. One of the reasons the rakyat are angry with the former Barisan Nasional (BN) government is partially thanks to the performance of some civil servants. While politicians decide on policies (hence their attendance and arguments in Parliament and the respective state legislative assemblies), civil servants are paid for and relied on to give technical advice, implement, administer, carry out policies and monitor progress.

While every five years or so, the people go to the ballot box and make their voices heard, changing politicians and political parties is not enough to ensure good governance. The politicians we elect can argue till kingdom come in the state legislative assembly and Parliament, but good policies and laws passed, will be in vain if the new govenrment is still served by the same bunch of civil servants with their ‘tak apa’ attitude. In short, we have a different wine but the same old wineskin.

How many of us here have not been annoyed by government bureaucracy? How many of us have written to some government departments and never even gotten a reply? How about the times when you try to make an inquiry via phone but was passed around from one officer to the next like a plate of keropok for half a morning, and with zero answers?

How do we feel when we read stories in newspapers and on social media about a group of Good Samaritans trying to raise donations to help an old lady living in poverty and on the verge of going blind, living on a pittance with only one scrawny grandchild who sells some polishing cloth as a way to earn a living? During times like this, one cannot help but wonder are there no designated social welfare officers who are tasked to seek these group of people who might need welfare assistance before their plights are plastered all over the newspaper?

How about when you complain to the local water board that a pipe near your house has a leak gushing water and you observe that you have to wait for a few days before the pipe is fixed?

How about when driving on your way to Sri Aman, you see a car collision, and you call Sri Aman Hospital only to have the person answering the phone ask you to call Serian Hospital as the location where the accident occurred is within the purview of another hospital?

No wonder voters decided to boot out the previous govenrment! When irritated, very few of us would bother to look at what, where and how the delivery chain went wrong. Because politicians are always in the media, and since they are elected by the people, they are the first to bear the brunt of public fury. But will kicking these politicians out of their office solve our daily headache of having to deal with incompetent government frontliners?

DayakDaily in December 2017, highlighted a problem of a longhouse sitting on the edge of an eroding cliff and its residents living in fright. Although funds were allocated by the late Tok Nan (former Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem) on an urgent basis for carrying out remedial works, but until today, the work has not been carried out although the elected representative has been chasing from one department to the next to find out what is happening, but to no avail. Maybe the officers sitting on these files are waiting for the slope to crumble and the longhouse to collapse before they start giving the case some attention.

By then, it would be late. Voters get angry, and the minister and deputy ministers get the blame. Little is it highlighted that most officers responsible are merely transferred to another department, will continue to be paid their monthly stipend and are still entitled to their pensions after retirement. After all, it is no secret that sacking a civil servant is a long, arduous and challenging process which requires permission from the king or head of state.

When the rakyat has voted for change, they do expect ‘change’ and one of these changes includes no other than better service from government administration frontliners who are required to serve the rakyat on a daily basis.

With the change of government, maybe it is time for the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to get down to business, make the necessary amendments to the relevant laws, and allow the sacking of unproductive civil servants to be made easier.

In all fairness, if politicians are required to be accountable and productive in their jobs then the rakyat should expect no less from government officials who are paid with taxpayers’ money.

Whatever policies the new government may have up their sleeves, they will need the support of the whole civil service machinery. Policies however good they are, if failed to be implemented and monitored, will not bring any positive change to the lives of the rakyat. — DayakDaily