Monday, September 17, 2012
Role of the Civil Service in National Development
In a democratic government where the national leaders are elected through a direct or a collegiate election system, politicians fill in public posts in the Executive and Legislative branch of government. Only posts in the Civil Service and the Judiuciary will be held by professionals, although countries adopting the American system assigned top posts in the Civil Service and Judiciary to elected officials.
Thus, the Civil Service and Judiciary under the British system, being strictly manned by professionals, are mandated to be neutral or apolitical. However, the officials must necessarily be subject to the policies and official directives of their political bosses.But to what extent? How far can the political bosses exert their influence on the career officials in carrying out their duties according to the laws and regulations, before the latter can complain about "political interference." Can officers 'advise' their political bosses when certain directives and instructions go against explicit rules and regulations or even against the law? Who will protect the officers when they refuse to do anything against the regulation or the law until such regulation or law is amended?
Such matters form the basic dilemma of the career public officials in fast developing countries where the political bosses (as elected officials) have almost absolute power.
This can literally reduce the career officials to the position of a 'yes-man' vis-a-vis the political bosses, irrespective of their rank and seniority in the service.Thus, even the Chief Secretary to the Government,the Secretary Generals of Ministries, Heads of Department,Judges, the Police or Army Chiefs etc. would not be able to execute their duties and responsibilities according to the rules and regulations but according to the dictate of the political bosses.
Surely this is a most undesirable state of affairs in a developing country where many experiments in development are being undertaken. Political leaders will be persuaded by the pressure and arguments exerted by their supporters but career officials must study facts, figures,the regulations and the law before recommending any course of action to their bosses, their reputation and trustworthiness being dependent on the merit of their recommendation. The easiest thing to do is to say 'yes-Sir' to the political bosses and that can cause untold damage and incur all the undesirable consequences of a bad decision made by the political bosses. Who then will take the blame?
In Malaysia there is no doubt that the political leaders have outclassed the career officials in pushing through development efforts, career officials often being too cautious and wary about making mistakes. They have been known to drag their feet until the late Tun Abdul Razak at one time and later Tun Dr Mahathir shook them up and instilled in them the frontiersmen spirit. They spearheaded new development programs like Felda, Felcra, Mardi, Pernas, Petronas, Proton, etc and all the privatized development programs.
When the initial jobs were all done, a new generation of civil servants who did not go through the Tun Razak's and Tun Mahathir's attitude transformation program, took over as leaders in the Civil Service. We don't hear them anymore talking as loud in support of their bosses, filling in the details of work to be done, and directing their staff like the old hands. INTAN tries to toughen up the new batches of civil servants through a rigorous six-months DPA course but let them go through paramilitary training without proper and adequate conditioning. That has resulted in two fatal casualties that will shake up the entire training concept formulated by INTAN and PSD.I wonder if that is another indication of the lack of pragmatic and cognitive shake-up which Tun Razak and Tun Mahathir gave the top civil servants in their time.