|27 June 2009|
|By P. Gunasegaram, Errol Oh and Tee Lin Say|
StarBizWeek talks to Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan about how the civil service can lift Malaysia’s competitiveness.
StarBizWeek: What are the key messages you are getting from your customers?
That means that the officers worked on a Sunday. That the system was down was not their fault. Can you imagine civil servants working on Sunday? More and more civil servants are now like that.
Don’t you think there are difference in service levels in different departments? There are still a lot of complaints about, say, the land office.
We benchmark ourselves against the best. In passports, for instance, do you know who people now benchmark against? Malaysia!
In terms of processing the passports?
Another thing we need to be doing is get feedback – immediate and publicised. Assessment of services is something we are planning to do. When you go to the counter at the Immigration Department, for example, you press a button to rate the officer, whether its excellent, average or poor. This encourages good behaviour and suppresses the bad behaviour. Civil servants want to be rated well. And how are you rated well? By doing a good job.
How do you improve public service delivery by changing structures and systems?
Therefore, I must make sure that the systems and processes are right. For licensing, for example, how do I make sure that the person gets the licence fast? How do I make sure that what used to take three years to complete now takes three hours? Do you remember people having to queue up at the Immigration Department just to get their queue numbers to apply for passports. Now it takes only three hours. So if you (as a department head) want to be rated well, you have to re-engineer the process.
We used to have 10 people checking things in a single process. Does it really matter whether it’s three or 10 people? So basically, it’s about trusting people. If you always need to supervise your secretary-general or deputy secretary-general, or even your accountant, then its going to be very hard to do your job.
So the drive must come from the officers?
You say it’s very hard to do certain things because it’s hard to change people. So, it’s about people and putting them in the right places. Have you managed to change some of these things, and how long will it take for you to do this?
Are you happy with the people you are getting, say at the lowest levels, or do you need people in the middle and upper levels to strengthen them?
So you feel that the attitude of the civil servant is changing?
You say the public sector remuneration is not the best. So what are the incentives for the civil servants to work harder to improve public service delivery?
There have always been more Malays in the public service? Should this be addressed?
Why do you think people are not applying? Is it because the non-Malays believe their prospects will not be so good?
Some of my housemates got general degrees and couldn’t join the government. So, the best Malay brains joined the government. Those who got general degrees joined the banks and the MNCs (multinational corporations). My Chinese friends who had done well (in university), joined their fathers’ companies or the MNCs, or started their own businesses.
The not-so-clever ones joined the government. So when there are so many Malays in civil service – and the best ones at that – who joined the government, who gets promoted? The brainy Malays, of course.
So basically are you happy with our public service delivery system?