Sorting out the weed from the wheat is important in strengthening Malaysia’s civil service

WITH civil servants making up 1.66 million or 15.1% of its total labour force (as per 2019 data), Malaysia’s civil service is obviously over bloated.

This is seven times higher than that of Singapore which stood at 2.1% in 2021. Even Indonesia has only 9.1% of its workforce in civil service in 2019 while Vietnam and Thailand maintained only 8.4% and 9.1% respectively.

One has to ask why Singapore despite only having a small percentage of civil servants is capable of moving the country forward since its separation from Malaysia in 1965.

Salaries tied to productivity

Productivity of civil servants in Singapore is not a numbers game. More employees does not mean better quality of service but employing the best people in the civil service.

This alone will ensure good delivery of services but sadly, the degree of bureaucracy is simply unbelievable in Malaysia.

Fewer employees also means that the government can afford to pay more to ensure that the civil servants are motivated to work hard to achieve their KPIs (key performance indicators) whereas in Malaysia, people who are more capable will find that the salaries offered by the private sector are more attractive.

This will demoralise the good employees and cause them to look for greener pastures. It is impossible for the government to match the salaries paid by the private sector because of the number of civil servants under its employment.

Even if a raise of just an average sum of RM100 for every civil servant, the government would have to fork out an additional RM166 mil every year.

Removing deadwood

In the long term, the bloated civil service is hardly sustainable. The need to remove deadwood form the civil service has been discussed time and again but there is hardly any political will to carry out reforms in the civil service.

Even as it has only four more years to go, the Madani government seems to have done nothing to review the Local Government Act which governs the local municipalities and city councils.

As a result, the deadwood continues to plague the delivery of the civil service. By definition, deadwood are simply “dead branches of a tree”. They can also mean useless or burdensome persons in an organisation.

We know that the natural thing to do with dead branches on a tree is to remove them so that new shoots can grow.

If they are not removed, the deadwood will hinder the growth of the tree as a whole; likewise, in the civil service, they will stunt the overall delivery of quality services by civil servants.

Removing ringleaders

We have seen since 2008 when there was a change of government at the state level that there would inevitably be civil servants who attempt to sabotage the system.

The Perak state government, for example, was unceremoniously removed despite the Pakatan Rakyat coalition having won the people’s mandate to form the state government in five of the states.

It would not be surprising that there are ringleaders operating within the deep state now still aiming to remove the Madani government at every opportunity.

Because civil servants cannot be sacked that easily as compared to the private sector, these ringleaders will blatantly defy orders, make things look bad on the leaders, especially if the government is weak.

In Selangor which is under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) rule for example, one reason why the local government continued to blatantly ignore public complaints is because the government led by Menteri Besar (MB) Datuk Seri Amiruddin Shari is too afraid to rock the boat.

Hence, one issue after another cropped up which brought bad light to the PH state government. For example, the case involving Uncle Patrick Khoo has dragged till now. Selangor experienced disruption in water supply on numerous occasions which somewhat appeared suspicious.

For the first time, Taman Sri Muda experienced a major flood that affected thousands of people in the township yet initial rescue services were hardly provided by the authorities.

Unless an inquiry or a thorough investigation is called to look into these issues affecting the public, it is hard to pinpoint the real cause. But it suffices to say with certainty that attempts would be made by any ringleader to cause the government of the day to be kicked out.

One reason why politicians are afraid to act on errant civil servants these days is because of the broom incident whereby the then Selangor MB Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo handed a broom to a council president for his poor performance.

Dr Khir had insisted that the poor performance of UMNO and Barisan Nasional (BN) in the March 8, 2008 polls was linked to the keris-waving incident by former UMNO youth chief Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein but he was spot on in that the local government was not up to the mark.

There is no denial that – although not everyone – some bad apples in the civil service had created a bad name for the civil service.

As it is, the Madani government would still need to address the poor delivery of services in the government administration or else the execution of good policies would never be realised.

Today, if Selangor PH were to lose in the next state election, it could be due to sabotages by some ringleaders and the inability of the state leaders to deal with them within the state administration. – Oct 18, 2023.

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