The STAR online, Malaysia Monday October 8, 2007 (http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.aspfile=/2007/10/8/business/19098238&sec=business)
Chief Secretary on crusade to boost service
By YAP LENG KUEN and B.K. SIDHU
Chief Secretary on crusade to boost public service
Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, chief secretary to the government, has the gargantuan task of changing the face of the civil service and producing a superb public delivery system by the turn of the decade. Aptly described as Malaysia’s largest CEO, overseeing 1.3 million employees, Sidek faces the double challenge of creating a more pro-business and credible system that can place Malaysia in the ranks of globally competitive economies. Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan To him, the shift is necessary not just for Malaysia’s competitiveness. The civil service has often been associated with red tape, and this has pushed the tolerance level of the public to the edge. A fresh perspective is vital, as the image of the civil service has been tainted by a few who continue to enrich themselves in an unlawful manner while others undermine its integrity. Malaysia also ranks below a lot of its regional peers in terms of time to process work permits or even registering businesses, among other things. Sidek likens his job ahead to that of a crusade, as there is a lot of convincing and overhauling of mindset to be done. But he is not alone in the game. With him are the many director-generals (DGs) of the various ministries who would help drive the message down to everyone in the service. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” is the message that comes on top of Sidek’s list. He wants every civil servant to put himself in the shoes of the customer to understand the urgent need for efficient, sincere and credible service. It boils to decision-making, empowerment and implementation. “Decisions are like a mantra; they should be implemented and monitored or else they are no good,” he said in an interview with StarBiz recently. Sidek was appointed as chief secretary on Sept 3, 2006. “I am not going to tolerate (lackadaisical enforcement) and I do not mince my words. If something needs to be enforced and monitored, that should be done or else, action would be taken,” Sidek said. The Government realises the need to have a one-stop centre for foreigners and Pemudah, a special task force to facilitate businesses, was set up eight months ago to facilitate the link between the public, businesses and the Government. Sidek is the co-chair of Pemudah. He may seem to be coming down hard on the civil service, but it is a job that needs to be done. He has received too many complaints from the public. The Prime Minister’s Office in Putra Jaya When he decided to post his e-mail address on the Government’s website, he was shocked to receive 700 complaints on the service in the first few days. To him, complaints are to be taken seriously. He channels them to the respective DGs and within hours to days, the complainants are attended to. Now all the DGs have their e-mails posted on their ministries’ websites and after that, he only gets half a dozen complaints daily. Non-performers and those who thrive on corrupt practices have no place in the service, Sidek said. Since taking on the job, he has brought people to book for their wrongdoings. Of late, the image of the police force has taken a beating with the rising crime rates, scandals involving the purported abuse of power and sloppiness in investigations. “There is no room for bad apples. We will not tolerate them even though the number is small. If they do not fit in, they have to leave and that is why we have an exit policy in place,” he said. The vast majority of people in civil service have done their bit for the country and signs of improvement are visible. One big area that Sidek sees gratifying results is the bringing forward of the timeline for government payouts to 14 days from 30 days previously. The Government pays out RM6bil monthly, and in the past, payments were delayed by up to three months. Passports can be made available in an hour and it is now quicker to get refunds from income tax claims. Yet a lot more need to be done in terms of simplifying processes and the layers of bureaucracy. That is what Sidek and the DGs are focusing on now. Empowerment, training and re-training as well as computerisation are the way forward. Having the right man for the right job would help improve productivity. Those who put their hearts and souls into the civil service would be rewarded, he said. “But we also need to punish those who do not do it; otherwise, it is not fair on those who perform.” He subscribes to the “favouritism” concept but in a positive way, for he believes in rewarding people who perform. “Would you want a deputy who cannot perform when you are not around? So that is where favouritism comes in,” he explained. “Rewards will be based on merit and not purely on seniority”. He is working feverishly towards this change. His vision for the civil service to move in tandem with the private sector. Sidek may have a timeline of two years to complete the change, but he wants it done “sooner than later”.
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