This, it says, going by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development standards, is apparently the highest civil servants-to-population ratio in the world.
The number has been increasing from a low of fewer than 900,000 in 2000. Naturally, this comes down to a hefty salary bill.
In fact, given the comparatively small number of taxpayers in Malaysia, this means that every 1.5 taxpayer supports one civil servant.
How much this obvious problem can be put down to the difficulty of dismissal despite a legally vulnerable tenure is uncertain.
But, there is no arguing that public complaints against the civil service are many, inferring that some employees do not carry their weight.
But, all that is about to end come Jan 1, with the introduction of the new Exit Policy for Poor Performers, an initiative to improve and strengthen the civil service.
Any public servant scoring less than 60 per cent on his or her Key Performance Indicator (KPI) will be put on probation for a year.
If no improvement is forthcoming, the individual will be removed from service with pension, gratuities, golden handshake and medical benefits intact.
Obviously, nothing to sniff at for a person who underperforms. For senior civil servants, a less forgiving decision, without a second chance, comes into operation as soon as the KPI falls to 60 per cent and below.
Once the decision is made by the management panel — comprising the secretary-general, the director-general of Public Services Department (PSD), the Auditor General and the Treasury secretary-general — to retire the individual, the matter is referred to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for endorsement.
That support for the policy comes even from the relevant unions is proof that something is amiss in the government sector. In fact, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) views the move as being fair to those who perform.
The resulting improvement can then ensure that employees will be given the commensurate remuneration. However, to ensure that an assessment is fair, the nature by which performance is gauged must have some measurable element and not just be intuitive.
For instance, a university lecturer’s performance must be a balance of how he or she fares in teaching and mentoring, as well as including published works that solidly contribute to the field’s body of knowledge.
In short, some objective measure must be worked out so that decisions are not subject to the whims and fancies of bosses, or the jealousy of colleagues.
In departments where there is direct interaction with the public, a straightforward complaints or compliments system must be established.
Deadlines unmet can be another measure.
The KPI then becomes a crucial instrument of the civil service that must be clearly defined, with relevance-to-job scope being the imperative.
For, while the policy is much needed to improve standards of service, it must, too, be wary of all possible abuse.
At the end of the day, there must still be sufficient room for the civil servant to confidently do his job without favour or fear. The NST Editorial 30 NOVEMBER 2015 @ 11:06 AM
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