Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Uncivil Service.

I think the Prime Minister has just about had it with the horror stories coming out of government offices. In a report from Bernama headlined 'PM Slams Departments For Not Discharging Duties', he has taken to task government departments guilty of dereliction of duty, saying it is this sort of attitude that makes the public angry with the government. Quite true Prime Minister, quite true.

"Government departments should respond fast to complaints and check any irregularities" he told a news conference in Tokyo. After fifty years of independence(well almost), our civil servants have to be reminded of their basic duty as if they are kindergarten kids who have to be constantly told 'do this' or 'don't do that'. It is not that they are ignorant; they know every clause, dot and dash of their duties. It simply boils down to sheer laziness and unwillingness to take on extra work - a permanent 'work to rule' mentality.

What prompted the outburst from the PM? Apparently a private television station (must be TV3 lah, they are good for this sort of exposing government blunders) reported that the Department of Environment (DOE) had not taken action against a company which flouted environmental regulations for almost a decade! On top of that, the DOE acted only after a Malay newspaper highlighted the matter. Utusan Malaysia reported last week that 16 companies dumped aluminium wastes at several areas in Selangor. One of the companies had been operating illegally for the last 10 years producing silver ingots at Janggut River, Kuala Selangor and disposing of aluminium wastes illegally.

The proverbial kuching was now out of the bag and what do public servants do when they are caught in sticky situations? They either pass the blame to a low-level official, pass the buck to the politician or come out with the finest lies masquerading as a clarification. Saying that Selangor DOE investigated public complaints and news reports, its director Che Aminah Ibrahim (there goes her datukship!) said her department was not slow in taking action since complaints about the company were only received recently. It is a modern-day miracle that only happens in government departments - blatant violations of the law could have been going on for ages but only when the kuching comes out of the gunny sack does the hitherto 'ignorant' officials 'suddenly' come across information and 'swift' action is taken. Oh puhweeze give me a break!

The PM is not buying her story either. "It is shirking its duty. How come they don't know what has been going on for 10 years and only now are taking action? It is the same with abandoned projects, wanting to repair only after many years. This is what makes people angry with the government," he said. Way to go Prime Minister.

Without doubt now that he has spoken things will move and we can expect some criminals, for that's what they are, to be charged in court soon. But there are literally hundreds of other government departments and offices doing nothing about a variety of offences being committed daily because either they are on the take from the violators or they could not be bothered. We simply cannot expect the PM to look into each and everyone of these.

For starters punish the head of department; that should send a shiver or two over some corrupted or inefficient spine. Have a section manned by dedicated and efficient officers (if you can find them) to monitor the news reports on TV, the newspapers (especially the 'letters to the editor' section) and the internet and investigate the thousands of complaints therein about the mismanagement and corruption in government departments and perhaps a couple of years down the road we can have a civil service we can be proud of. Until then they will always be to the public - the uncivil service.


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3:13 AM GMT+8  

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