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..


kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
The basis changed when politics could command a stronger voice. It succumned to the misguided notion of give and take. This is prompted by politics of race. So you have elected representatives vying to score points bearing in mind if they should meet the aspirations of the race they represent to stay ahead for another term.There will then be decisions affecting the civil service which would not be consistent and common for the whole country. We've seen this when Penang rewarded their civil servants just a little more than the centre for the end of year goodies (to spite the BN or just emotional outburst without regard to costs!)
So what the civil servants hold dear are now all confused and mixed up. The late Datuk Harun Hashim once said, in delivering judgement that we should always make it easier for those who come after us. Instead we are now creating problems for those who come later to try to resolve! Pity!


norzah said...

Confusion in the civil service is the right word, Akhi. The rule was straightforward and simple before - follow the rule as set down in the book. Now, follow the political bosses and they don't follow any book but their interest to stay in power. Result - confusion.

abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
Soon even the Public Service Commission which is supposed to be an independent body responsible for recruitment into the public service will be just a mere appendage of the once formidable steel framework which you have described.The rot starts from the head, and if the head is just a yes-man, then even the 1.4 million people manning the structure is just a spineless body of jellyfish which has no sting. The leadership of the civil service is now toothless, spineless and lacking credibility. I feel very sorry for the coming generation of these hordes of buffaloes, goats and cows who just do the bidding of the politicians with fear hoping for favour.

norzah said...

A very ominous prediction, Akhi Halim, but looking at how things are going, i'm not surprised if things will turn out the way you predicted. It would appear that CUEPAC has more sting than the so-called primier service and that the head of the flock has nothing to hold up as the beacon for the service. No target and no rallying call to hold the flock together. The political bosses are running both the political and the adminitrative scenario. So we are going to have a primier service? Even CUEPAC doesn't agree.

homegardensanctuary said...

Dato asalamualaikum. U are right the administrative service has lost the respect.. No more steel structures fact no more foundation ..They are not advising no more ...It is sad to note that many senior officers now are afraid to speak up not that they do not want to but the culture is "just do it" answer "yes sir" not "but sir...." that is the tall order of the day. Anyone who speak up seen as the black sheep.. Can go swimming for years ! So everyone is just trying to save their own skin ..survival of the fittest ..self centred not for the service but for the self . That is the difference more es pirit de corps.. Saving your own skin would mean better chance to get that premier post where salary is beyond believe .. It has already been implemented as a new year gift! Principles on determining salaries to close gaps between the rich and the poor in the service itself is
thrown out of the window .. Sad the administrative service only window dressing now calling themselves this and that..just like a window dressed nice to look at ...cannot touch..not for sale ! It is sad to note the crumbling of the civil service is done by the civil servant themselves not outsiders ..they admit they are not good and they need outsiders to help them when we know the country is where it is now as the previous prime minister said in his latest book A Dr in the House is because the civil service administered by malays was responsible for it..and he said be proud to be a malay..i am proud to be a malay and i am proud that i was part of the civil service playing a role as advisors ..relationship with the politicians was healthy and full of mutual respect back then short it all boils down to leadership in the administrative service..
the question is do we have one ?

abdulhalimshah said...

The comment from Fauziah comes at the right time. In fact the leadership of the PTD was to be blamed for its own self-destruction. The so-called once elite premier service is just a shadow of its past. Such a conundrum was possible because the cohesiveness of a once proud service was destroyed by its own members. Greed, jealousy and self-centredness were the cause of its downfall. It has lost its soul and now running wildly like a headless chicken after being slaughtered by the politicians.

norzah said...

Thank you, homegardensanctuary, for a very frank and earnest comment. You're some of the few ex civil servants who dare to write. Many others are as silent as those still serving, perhaps too scared to say anything.

Yes, the senior civil servants used to be advisors to the political bosses, suggesting what can and cannot be done in view of the consequences that can be anticipated. Yes, the political bosses have the final say but they are duly cautioned. It must be remembered that all monetary transactions in the ministry or department must be signed by the civil servants.

The administrative leadership role of the senior civil servants has certainly been eroded by the political authority of the elected YBs. Why? Because the senior civil servants are no longer authoritative in they own field -administration and management. Politicians spell out what needs to be done to please the public but civil servants must study how best to do it and advise their political masters the consequences of each alternative.
What can you do if you don't even know the qualitative and quantitative approach to problem analysis.

The Civil Service Chief must be a truly experienced and qualified man. So also the KSUs and DGs, not just a loyal 'yes-man'. Somewhere along the line, an ex-KSN has chosen his favorites to be KSUs and DGs, and now they are just not living up to the challenge.

Thanks again for the comment and I hope to hear more from you.

norzah said...

Akhi Halim, your latest comment came in after I responded to HGS. Yes, I was so glad to hear for her and your endorsement of the views she expressed. Certainly it was one of the ex-KSN who put many of his favorites in key positions which led to the downfall of the civil service. But the Political bosses admire him until today, even as the civil service becomes the headless chicken as you described.

abdulhalimshah said...

I once remember one academician said to us then participants of a promotion course in INTAN, we should act as a cohesive group and provide the bulwark against injustice and unfairness committed by the politicians. Alas, that is not to be so, because many just succumb to temptations of the carrot dangling at the end of the stick by the numero uni and of course one of the beneficiary of the spoils is still around to enjoy his reward.

Anonymous said...

Agreed to all the comments above....the current senior officers could not even has the say in tansfering junior has to be blessed by the politiician...its not based on skill but favourtism...even though being new ...... Current cultures are seems not based on your capality but 'dalam jiwa ada taman'........

norzah said...

Thank you for the comment, Anonymous. Political intervention in the transfer of officers, especially junior ones who need a lot of job exposure and experience, lies at the root of stagnation and defiance of authority by junior officers hiding under the cloak of political bosses. Even a close friend of a Minister who is not at all in the service can cause a senior officer to be transferred for "failing to cooperate" in some political deals. KPPA and the KSN seem unable to trace let alone overcome this problem. Memang dalam jiwa bukan saja ada taman tapi sarang2 tebuan, kerengga dan semut.