Saturday, February 04, 2017

When servants are no more civil ....

If an Indon servant at home were caught doing something unforgiveable, they would be sent back home that day itself or by the next flight back.

Hardly any civil servant get fired. Lifelong employment allow them to linger around and temporarily lie low at some obscure department somewhere. The resourceful one could pull strings and manouvre a comeback.

This posting will attract mixed reactions. Some segment of the public may agree and some disagree.

It could be deemed as politically incorrect or bad timing to pro-government politicians. And, the anti-government or pro-opposition will oppose to score political brownie points though they actually agree.

However, blogging or citizen journalism is a personal space to air justified concerns and express educated opinion. No amount of dedak inducement can sway true bloggers. To get their concurrence, they need to be convinced.

Civil means matters relating to ordinary citizen or their concerns, as in not military. It also means order, decorum, courteous and polite.

The Malaysian civil service has a long and proud history that dates to the 1700s. They were instrumental in building the new nation from Malaya to Malaysia today [read here and here].

However, the present crop is far from the descriptions and more. There are those that blamed the present malaise to Tun Dr Mahathir privatisation.

Though Malaysian civil service had taken up roles supposed to be played by community or NGO or private sectors, privatisation was the start to take the roles of civil servants away from them.

Mahathir was in a hurry and had no tolerance for pen pushing bureaucrats. Even if given the task, the civil service could not keep up or do a Sir Humphrey Appleby to fail any labourious new initiatives.

These days public forgot and levied blame on PEMANDU, the performance enhancement consultant-agency set-up and run by private sector people.

Inefficiency and incompetence

Lately, government servants have been exhibiting bad discipline to indulge in leaking official secrets or sabotaging from inside.

It is becoming common to see civil servants openly slandering the government and seditiously running down the government in social media.

Undoubtedly, they have a right to an opinion. Whether to maintain secrecy or their conduct in public, civil servants are bound by a code of conduct. It is a code from their glorious past.

The list of inefficiency and incompetence of civil servants is a long one but the habits of inefficiency and incompetence are all over.

For a start, the habit of "pergi minum teh" at around 10 AM is itself a wasteful half an hour.

Most of the time, these civil servants are having their breakfast which should be taken before the start of work. A mid-morning drink could be done at their desk as commonly done in the private sector.

Clients coming to have dealing with government ended up frustrated to have to wait for officers to finish their leisurely morning tea.

If it is not the morning tea practice, there is also the British tradition of evening tea. Together with regular gossip in the office, their productive time could be hardly few hours.

Officers are seldom absent from the office to attend courses. They regularly attend courses and seminars, locally and abroad, but still "tidak pandai-pandai lagi" (not clever yet).

A common frustration in dealing with government department is calls seldom get picked up.

Getting the calls directed by the usually visually handicapped phone operators is a challenge by itself. It is usually wrongly directed or it takes too long that the line gets cut off. The handicap is not the problem but the system itself. There is none.

By 4:00 PM, government offices uncompromisingly refused to pick up any calls.

Letters to government are hardly replied unless it involves something they urgently need and it is sent at the last minute.

Despite being overstaffed, the simple formality and courtesy to acknowledge receipt of letters are seldom done. One has to be loud to demand they sign an attached copy.

Civil servants tend to KIV their work. Acknowledgement is a record of the work intentionally delayed.

It is often heard these days of government officers do not open letters from scholarship applicants till near the dateline and cause undue hardship to students.

Fee supposed to be paid to enable scholarship holders sit for their final exams are not made!   

They are supposed to be servants to the public but they insist public kneel to them and wait forever to be attended to.

The efficient practise in private sector is to make appointments but civil servants will not give one and insist to just come as they will be there. Quite often they are not there for various excuses. At times, the whole office is empty due to personnel deployment to fill up the halls for some meaningless event for the KSU or Menteri.

For Friday morning, civil servants have no sense of guilt to disappear from their desk to attend religious classes. It is haram and no barakah as it is at taxpayers' expense.

By right, it should be done outside office hours. Same with late afternoon return to office to attend zohor religious lectures.

Such attitude could be the result of demotivation.

In civil service, promotion is based on age and seniority and not meritocrasy and capability. Civil servants have to buy time for their opportunity. Some would have the patience but most do not.

As a result, there is a prevailing sense of contentment. Motivation to take their job seriously is lacking.

They are more serious with their MLM business or after work pasar malam. It is common of agriculture officers do repackaging business on the side to resell seeds, fertilizers, etc. back to their department or direct to farmers. 

These are seeds of corruption.

Another problem is a transitional problem from the New Economic Policy.

Back when Mahathir mentioned of tongkat or crutches, it was meant as burden of expectation on him to resolve every problems.

It was the first time the negative subsidy mentality was highlighted. This sense of entitlement still prevail among retired top government officials despite NEP was supposed to have ended in 1990, some 27 years ago!

The practise of personal favours among top government servants, in service or retired, used to be a mere occupational perks.

It has come to an epidemic proportion that public is denied economic and educational opportunities in favour of the children and grandchildren of senior civil servants.

At a time of economic austerity, civil servants, in service or retired, should understand the constraints of government better than the public but they ended as the one bitching government more.

Retired civil servants turned anti-government because of raises in consumer prices and their unemployed grandchildren.

Are they not grateful for the bountiful lifelong perks as civil servants cover their health cost and living expenses till the end of their life?

Why blame on the policy making executive branch of government when civil servants failed in their role in implementation, advising their political master, monitoring and control, and enforcement?

If there is civic consciousness, there is no need for enforcement budget.


The biggest problem with the civil servant today, which is only now highlighted from the raids by MACC under their new leadership, is corruption.

One can often hear the usual response by civil servants to blame on politicians whenever the problem of corruption crops up.

If civil servants do not collude, politicians cannot take bribe.

In cases desperate politicians resort to one off corruption opportunity, it was to meet constituency and supporter expectations.

However, civil servants usually take the bigger cut and perpetually milk the system as long as they are in the position. Among civil servants, certain position involving contracts and approving power are called lubuk (fishing spot).

For too long, PTD mafia have been covering up their own. The recent DBKL and Sabah water corruption charges only made the public realised how deep corruption is in the civil service.

In a recent report by NST, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki gave a more startling revelation of corruption in the civil service:
Bribery breaking point, MACC urges those pressured to grease the palms to file complaints

By Farrah Naz Karim And Aliza Shah - 2 February 2017 @ 2:01 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: A whopping 80 per cent of corruption cases built against civil servants involved them soliciting from their clients — the public.

In cases where they were offered “dirty money”, many were in fact triggered by the fear among “givers” that their business would face a “roadblock” if they refused to make under-the-table transactions with the civil servants they had to deal with.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission revealed to the New Straits Times that some areas in the public delivery system continued to allow corrupt civil servants, including those in decision-making positions, the ultimate power to abuse their position for illicit gratification.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki told the NST that these “very powerful” personnel would even resort to dragging their feet or “making things difficult” for those who failed to “get the hint” that the only way to get things done was for a “win-win” arrangement that involved a certain “fee”.

“In many cases, the potential giver would be put under duress until they bow to pressure and pay the ‘service charge’.

“Sometimes, these officers stop at giving strong hints and sometimes, they use their power to arbitrarily drag the approval of projects or payments.

“These corrupt officials are mainly those with power and they will apply pressure... until they get what they want,” he said.

Statistics over the last two years showed that government servants made up about half of the commission’s cases. Statistics also showed that since 2011, only 162 civil servants (or a mere 0.01 per cent of 1.6 million employees) had reported attempts to bribe them.

Azam said in investigating such cases, the commission was often impeded by the reluctance of bribe-givers to come forward to assist in investigations for fear of putting their businesses or safety at risk. This is despite them having lodged reports with the commission.

Read on here.
Off late, civil servants are fighting back with a work to rule protest. They create all sort of excuses to put more bureaucratic barricades to delay and sabotage implementation of policies as to blame MACC.

Bosses refuse to take responsibility and make decisions to instead create committees after committees for the most mundane of decisions required. Intentional sabotage of government programs is at large to infuriate public against government.

Officers in immigration, customs, and various enforcement agencies have been on the payroll of smugglers, illegal gambling operators, and lawbreakers to look elsewhere for years.

As the 16th trading nation in the world, why is tax from trade and services related economic activities rather low?

An estimate puts the income from the black economy that by-pass the tax system at almost half the legitimate economy.

If MACC were to raid on them, they may enforce the law back on MACC officers. A possible war between enforcement agencies in the making.

Need for scrutiny 

Neither politicians nor civil servants should take bribe. Both need to be addressed and it is not an either or situation.

Transparency International have tone down their earlier demand to go after politicians and now believe MACC will go after them. Chief Commissioner, Dato Dzulkifli told a seminar participants to be patience.

For MACC to pursue on politicians, they should not be seen as replicating FBI Director James Comey to throw an announcement bomb on Hillary Clinton two weeks before balloting.

If MACC were to pursue corrupt politicians, will the public support them?

They did not in the Teoh Beng Hock "accident" as it was politicised to cover corruption by DAP politicians. Penang Chief Minister was charged for clear cut corruption that was raised for several years but DAP openly defend his corrupt act! 

Those calling for raid on politicians are politically motivated and expecting BN politicians to be charged. What if it involves opposition politicians?

What if it involves the idol of the pentaksub (die-hards)?

Recently, there were calls from both sides of the divide that politicians should not be involve with GLCs.

But, then does the raids by MACC not show that civil servants are equally corrupt? Professional can be corrupt too as with the THHE past CEO that is being charged in court. Those below 40 are more corrupt than the older ones!

It comes down to the capability and integrity of the individual. Najib has to be more selective, scrutinise the background and appreciate intelligence report on candidates before making important appointments.

The Tok Lebai he appointed Chief Minister turned out to be corrupt.


In Bigdog's latest posting here, he described civil servants as "manja" or spoilt.

He argued that pandering to the inefficient, incompetent, and now corrupt civil servant is a costly affair.

And, he claimed the bloated civil service is RM93 billion or 35.8% of annual Federal Government budget or 78% of revenue collected by Inland Revenue Board.

The civil service is in dire need for a big nudge to boast efficiency, increase productivity, and the simple request to be serious and responsible in their work.

If PEMANDU's current effort to transfer activities to civil service still fail to enhance performance from government officers and they are likely to shove years of Pemandu's effort aside, it is time for the tough theory X.

According to human motivation theories, theory X is the stick approach, theory Y is for carrot and theory Z is carrot and stick.  

In a recent Bloomberg report here, civil service make up 11% of the labour force. Out of the 11.6 million civil servants, 79% is Malay. Another 11% are other Bumiputera races. Other race make up the rest.

It would give Najib a headache to rotan them to shape as it could be politically costly or even cause a lost to BN. However, this posting is not about political correctness.

The country cannot afford to sustain a high civil servant to population ratio and yet the delivery system  remain poor. The table above shows Malaysia's civil servants to population vis-a-vis other country.

If civil servants think they could sabotage present ruling party's effort to reform the civil service or topple the BN government, DAP has already advocated slashing civil service.

It is inevitable that heads may need to roll to send a strong message to incompetent, devil may care and corrupt civil servants to buck up or start surfing Job Street.

Penang Institute suggested to slash the civil service down to around 430,000.

Civil servants and politicians politicised it to accuse DAP of intention to discriminate against Malays and deny the Bumiputera Special Rights. It is argued as politically motivated to reduce support of the present ruling BN.

CUEPAC naturally was against it and in fact, blackmailed government for political support with demand for few more concessions.

The civil service problem is for real and it should not be politicised. Dato Johari Ghani publicly acknowledged the problem of bloated civil service.

The public discussion is beginning. Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam explained well how the manja-manja syndrome mentioned by Big Dog came about and suggested steps to cut civil service here.

FMT columnist TK Chua questioned why Johari is telling the obvious here. To answer Chua, the start to any solution is to acknowledge the problems.


Anonymous said...

Is the definition of what constitute civil servants the same for all the countries compared? I personally do think the spending on our civil servants are not sustainable but I'm wary of stats that do not include any definition.

Anonymous said...

These civil servants will never survive in the private sector. After all that been said and done, so many ungrateful civil servant talk bad about the gment when they by right must carry out/implement all that been planned by the gment, not to sabotage it. About time gment must do something to reduce the numbers and kick out all the deadwoods

Anonymous said...

It is generally the problem with Malay temperament.

Though it applies to people of any race, the Malay majority in government had a created a negative work culture that is not suited with the time.

It is prevalent among Malays in government to not serious, not diligent, and lack aptitude. To compensate their shortcoming, they resort to politicking, backstabbing, and corruption as shortcut to promotion, power and fortune.

Raja Kumbang said...

Just look at the parking lot in government offices, 'kakitangan' will be nearest to the building or at the upper floors and 'pelawat' will be at the furthest spots or basement level 3 and 4 which reflect their attitude.

Ex-AA & Co. said...

A Voice,

We have to be realistic! The bloated 'Member-get-member' scheme PTD is practicing at the moment is a pathetic example the Malays are celebrating mediocrity.

Who are those sitting in middle to senior PTD posts? Are they of Zain Azraii calibre?

Many PTD officers can't even speak and write in proper English.

My theory is for them to suppress their inability to cope with work demand, especially as Malaysia opens up for foreigners, these PTDs organised amongst themselves to create posts. That is why suddenly in so short of time, new posts of TKSUs, Divisional Secretaries, Directors appear in various Ministries' directories.

Why the hell does a KSU requires 'Special Officers'??

Did the information/reporting/feedback system within the Ministry gone unbearably bureaucratic in this age of ICT democracy that the Under Secretary of State requires officers at Division Secretary grade to help him do his work?

And another thing which burns me. KSUs. TSKUs and other senior PTD officers are provided opportunities to do post graduate course. It is supposed to help them, as they are exposed to bigger and more strategic responsibilities as they go up the ladder.

Well, good and fine. Even it is often said many used the maximum allowable space to stretch their opportunity to live abroad, like taking 4.5 or 5 years to do PhD.

So why is it when the PTDs draw up this strategic plan to the Govt, they only do it for themselves? How come the same opportunities are not being drawn up for other persons employed to look after and manage Govt strategic interests?

Eg. is those taking care of GLCs. Isn't better if GLC senior key people hv PhD from top notch schools in the UK and US? Wouldn't a PhD from LSE, UCL, Oxford, Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Wharton be a strategic addition to the existing FCCA, BEng, Bec or LLB qualifications of these GLC professional managers?

I think there are more to complain.

Good for you and Bigdog to attack this problem, which is one of the true hinderance to progress.

Phd holding PTA said...

PTD should be the creme de la creme of civil service. But how could they get the best if members get members is done at the entry level. How are they to know they are capable?

PTDs these days can hardly speak or write in ENglish or let alone Bahasa Malaysia.

How can they be the best if their qualification is only public administration, usualuddin and religious studies or anthropology and some social sciences. Could they not get any lawyers, doctors, science students, MBAs and accountants to join?

Apparently, some are sons and daughters of former senior civil servants and the selection is merely former bosses calling their former subordinates in high places.

The PTD-PTA division system is obselete. Time to abolish this feudel system and democratise the process of entry to the civil service.

Another disturbing happening that has yet to be addressed is retired senior servants joining private sectors as board members. Are their contribution useful or exist conflict of interest?

Anon said...

Hope whatever is being done is ikhlas lillahitaala coz if kantol to do just to cover then...I say to hell with this.

Anonymous said...

... add that to reduced working days : Mondays to Fridays only which was gazetted during Pak Lah's time.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with Raja Kumbang. Civil Servant meant to serve the public.

But when you look at the parking space allocated to them are at the strategic place whilst public whom need the service at their office have to park further away and has to walk. Imagine if the senior citizen, alone to go to this gov office have to face the hussle.

Cant they allotted specific parking for their staff but not at the strategic place except for the VIP.

My Say