Malaysiakini Letter

Time to act and stop the rot in the civil service

M Krishnamoorthy  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | More than 1.6 million civil service officials must change their mindset in the New Malaysia for a brighter and better tomorrow for all Malaysians.

Now that Pakatan Harapan has celebrated the first Merdeka celebration and completed the first 100 days, it’s time to act. Without any further delay, the change must happen and it will happen if civil service reforms are adopted.

Harapan’s challenge will be changing the civil service culture and mindset for a brave New Malaysia and a better tomorrow.

Only reforms will change the civil service administration, execution and management, for efficiency to set in so that the nation and people are served by a people-minded civil service.

Telling that the civil service is “broken” and not taking action against recalcitrant government officials is a greater mistake. Only taking action against indiscipline will be a reminder to the civil service to stop any rot or sabotage from within.

Only serious actions against civil servants who have failed in their duties will send a reminder to the current officials that they cannot be inefficient or be corrupt anymore.

It is not only the duty of the government, but also the public to play a constructive role by highlighting corrupt and inefficient officials.

Having been a civil servant from 1969 to 1979, I am aware there are several provisions for disciplinary action by the authorities (Public Services Department and its commission).

Several steps can be instituted to take disciplinary action against government officials by the new chief secretary to the government (KSN) spearheading a civil service reform body to review and take action against all corrupt and inefficient officials.

The Public Services Department (PSD) and its commission together with the MACC can be the change agents in getting the civil service cleaned up.

The new chief secretary must instruct the PSD to begin action immediately by disciplining staff through proper internal inquiries to institute transfers, dismissals and salary deductions.

Improvements to the civil service can be done in several ways:

1. The disciplinary board under the Public Services Department (PSD) must act immediately.

2. The PSD must table their findings to their Public Services Commission recommending dismissals.

3. The chief secretary to the government must then table a recommendation that inefficient officials be dismissed in public interest and denied all pension privileges.

4. In a particular case, a full domestic inquiry must be held for all Treasury officers related to the misappropriation of funds.

5. They must be called up to give answers on how refunds were not made to more than 1.6 million taxpayers.

6. If found guilty, action must be taken and if retired, their pensions should be stopped.

7. The inquiry has to be tasked to find out who stalled the action to return refunds to more than 1.6 million taxpayers.

8. Treasury officials, including the Finance Ministry secretary-general, must answer why basic bookkeeping procedures were not followed.

9. Disciplinary action must be instituted against all officials who abused their positions.

10. The chief secretary to the government must advise the cabinet and prime minister whether there was any element of criminality.

There is one high-profile case that affected many Malaysians. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the former treasurer-general did not heed the Inland Revenue Board's (IRB) request to transfer the necessary monies to the Tax Refund Fund (TBBC).

Lim revealed that the IRB had made the written request to the treasurer- general in 2016 but the request was ignored.

Lim added the previous administration had falsified accounts and misappropriated tax refunds for other purposes or for covering up of the (budget) deficit to show a surplus.

IRB owed RM16 billion in tax refunds, spanning back six years and involving 1.65 million cases. The customs department also revealed that it was unable to issue RM19.25 billion in GST refunds.

Time to act. It's time for the government to fix a "broken" civil service through the provisions of disciplinary action through the civil service commission or through the judiciary.

Since a police report is lodged, the government may also consider legal action.

The writer is an associate professor, freelance journalist and author of the book People power saves Malaysia – Mahathir leads the way. He served in the civil service from 1969 to 1979.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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