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The main problem is bureaucratic inertia

By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE

The planning and management problems in the public sector are a kind of inertia problems, instead of a capability problem of the public servants.

In fact, public servants are capable. For examples, after opinions are gathered through a round table meeting, the Education Minister has retained the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination and abolished the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examination. The Education Ministry also agrees with the view of educational groups that under the new Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR), the Bahasa Malaysia lesson in Chinese primary schools will be increased to 300 minutes while the English Language lesson will be increased to 150 minutes. The two decisions are indeed reasonable.

The wild spending and over spending, crimes involving border officials and the fall in the Corruption Perception Index revealed in the Auditor-General Report are management negligence. They have also reflected that more and more people no longer comply with monitoring and reviewing procedures.

How serious are the problems? For an instance, when the government built the light rail system in the 1990s, the connection problem had not been taken into consideration and therefore, we had Star and Putra LRT, as well as the KL Monorail. The money has been spent but the traffic congestion remains chaotic.

When the previous Selangor state government decided to spend RM43.84mil to build the Shah Alam Royal Theatre, it did not consider whether there was a need to so do. As a result, the building has turned out to be a white elephant.

A total of RM2.47 million was spent to buy 17 official vehicles in Malacca but the maintenance fees had reached as high as RM5.12 million. They did not first form a panel to assess the quality of the vehicles and review the maintenance contract before making the purchase. It is indeed a major omission.

The government has responded quickly to the Auditor-General Report and the suggestions of the Transparency International, including giving instructions to government officials not to over spend and making the Corruption Perception Index a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). It shows that the government really takes criticism seriously and is willing to take actions to correct its mistakes. However, if it fails to make it 100% strict in administrative procedures, there is no guarantee that the mistake would not be repeated in the future.

I think that the government should adopt the International Standardization Organization’s (ISO) management approach to standardize procedures with international standards and guidelines. For example, procurement must follow a set of standard procedures with layers of approval and review. Each expenditure must go through the Deming Cycle PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Action).

Although paper work will be increased and bureaucracy might also be worsened if the ISO practices are adopted, the operational procedures must still be standardised. It is because with the number of civil servants as huge as 1.29 million people, the mode of operation tends to based on sensibilities rather than rules. Also, the unclear approval process allows those who are suppose to be responsible for a mistake to easily pass the buck and resulted in many irregularities and illegal acts.

Humans are inertial. Forcing all civil servants to follow procedures can strengthen discipline and their sense of responsibility. For example, the discipline and law-abiding characteristics of the Germans are formed through daily training and cultural influence.

The government must straighten discipline and strengthen management if it wishes to successfully transform the government and economy.

Sin Chew Daily

MySinchew 2010-10-29

 

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