Thursday, December 22, 2011
The Steel Framework of Administration.
The Malaysian Civil Service used to be considered as the steel framework of administration in the country. It is neutral or apolitical and it serves whoever comes to power through the political processes of selecting the leaders in the nation. All its dealings and decision-making processes are governed by tight and documented procedures to ensure justice and fairness to all. Financial procedures were watertight, to avoid any misuse of government funds which come from taxes and dues collected from the people of the nation.
How far have we moved away from these norms now? Politics have taken over as the steel scaffolding of the administration with policy decisions made by the political bosses, elected by the people and certainly representing some partisan interest. No matter how fair and objective they are in their deliberation, people will think that they will decide in the interest of their supporters. They are not bound by the infamous bureaucratic rules and can side-step all the regulations so long as their legal advisers okayed their move. If any law or regulation stands in the way of what they earmarked as "development", the laws or regulation can be changed or amended through Parliament.
Hence the political leaders not only set the direction and goals of development but also the way it is to be done. This involves the identification and selection of development projects since they determine the priorities according to public demand, who gets the project since the lowest offer may not be the best, and what adjustments must be made since the project must meet the expectation of the public which is best known by the political bosses. Routine administrative matters must also be tempered with at times to speed up matters, take political exigencies into consideration, adjust priorities according to the strength of political influence and make the bureaucracy more sensitive to the urgent need of the public. Even the promotions and emplacement of key officers must be considered in terms of suitability, loyalty and capability, while seniority and experience mean nothing much anymore.
Yes, the civil service has changed a lot and will be changed further. Secretaries-General and Directors-General as administrative heads of ministries and departments must kowtow to the political and private secretaries of political bosses who knew better what the political bosses want. Even the transferring of officers due to promotion, the matching up of expertise and experience woth the requirements of the job, and and allowing for job rotation to get the best out of peoplr, must be agreed to by the political bosses for suitability in terms of working relationship is more important than all of the previous requirememts.
Will the steel framework od administration hold with many of the crucial nuts and bolts removed to allow for political flexibility? Will the old prestige and authoritativeness ofbthe civil service remain when young and inexperienced officers can suddenly take over as the administrative bosses over older and experienced hands, even coming in from outside the service trough laterl entery without any proper training and acclamatization? Will the politicisation of the civil service produce better results than the steel framework of yesteryears? Let's wait and see the outcome of the vsrious changes in the next few yesrs, especially when the political superstructure itself undergoes some critical changes in line with changes in tbe political climate..