AGENT OF CHANGE: A modern public service required new, responsive methods
IN the pre-independence days, not much attention was paid to the role of training in the public service. Public officials were expected to acquire administrative knowledge and work skills, as well as technical and professional know-how, wherever these are needed or relevant, through an informal process of actual work experience and learning on-the-job, so to speak.
This laissez-faire approach to professional training served the government's purpose at a time when the public service was able to function at a more leisurely pace.
The functions of the administration then were principally dedicated to the maintenance of law and order, the collection of revenues and appropriate disbursement of government resources.
Moreover, public administration was essentially confined to the provision of basic infrastructure to facilitate the exploitation of the country's primary commodities and natural resources.
With the achievement of sovereign independence, there emerged a progressive shift in emphasis in the functions of the public service from the hitherto narrow regulatory function to an emphasis on socio-economic development and progress in all fields. In this changed situation, stress was placed on the role of the bureaucracy as a change agent for progress.
The National Institute of Public Administration building in Kuala Lumpur. The creation of public institutions contributed towards achieving Malaysia’s pressing development administration goals.
The new and more vibrant administrative environment called for a reorientation in the work ethics of public personnel. This was necessary as the civil service was rather slow in elevating its operational style and thinking from the hitherto maintenance administration mould of the colonial period to a more dynamic and challenging administration for development and progress.
More specifically, the marked change in the trust of public administration had the effect of placing increasing pressures on the bureaucracy for professionalism and work skills in development administration and public management as required in the country's five-year economic development plans.
Indeed, the government's vigorous development policies saw the unfolding of a whole series of socio-economic projects and programmes that demanded extensive administrative support.
New and more responsive methods of administration were needed to meet the increasing requirements of a modern public service. The pressing demands and expectations of fulfilment prompted an impetus for professional training in the public service.
It was against this administrative backdrop that then deputy prime minister Tun Abdul Razak (Hussein) resolved to place professional training in its right perspective and evolve a strategy to institutionalise formal training within the administrative system.
He placed special emphasis on enhancement of the overall capacity and professional prowess of the bureaucracy to ensure speedy and effective socio-economic development and progress, especially through the efficient management of Malaysia's resources.
Among other pertinent considerations, Razak insisted that public officials should be thoroughly familiar with the systems and science of efficient and effective development administration from project planning and implementation to the judicious harnessing and management of the country's resources.
He introduced significant improvements in the area of policy planning, as well as in the techniques of implementation, evaluation, administrative organisation and management of public projects to achieve this singular developmental goal.
The colossal nature of the challenge of professionalism failed to deter Razak from injecting training in the public service to meet the goal of bureaucratic professionalism. He insisted that the administration had to develop capabilities compatible with the achievements and requirements of a dynamic economy. It was largely because of his insistence that a thoroughgoing programme for administrative excellence through training and professionalism was accorded a status of a national priority.
Razak's abiding interest in public administration, particularly in respect to the machinery and techniques for planning and implementation of socio-economic development, injected into the bureaucracy a new sensitivity and commitment towards development administration.
The creation of public institutions, such as the centre for development administration and the introduction of development policies as specified in the five-year development plans, contributed immensely towards achieving Malaysia's pressing development administration goals. Significantly, these policies were firmly supported by a comprehensive programme of research and training in modern development administration and management in the public service through training institutions, such as the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan) that he established.
(Tan Sri) Elyas Omar, who was at one time the director of Intan, had underlined in one of his briefings to me, when I assumed the unenviable task of setting up and heading the Centre of International Relations and Strategic Studies in Intan, that whereas in the past, training was undertaken on an ad hoc basis, under Razak's leadership, training of the entire public service at all levels and sectors -- the administrative, professional and technical -- was billed as a matter of national policy.
This forward momentum in the professionalisation of the public service through formal training received a major boost with Razak assuming leadership of the country as the second prime minister on Sept 22, 1970.
Datuk Dr. Ananda Kumaraseri | email@example.com Changing role of training - Columnist - New Straits Times NST Opinion Columnist 21/03/2014