Whose Decision Was It Anyway?

Posted by M ws On Wednesday, July 18, 2012 2 comments
The following post by KJ John is from Malaysiakini at this link. KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. I am reposting it to share it with readers who have yet to subscribe to Malaysiakini. You can do so HERE.

Whose Decision Was It Anyway?
-written by KJ John-

I am a proud former Administrative and Diplomatic Service (PTD) officer. I thoroughly enjoyed my service as a PTD officer when in the public services. In our day we were taught to assume the role and responsibility of policy advisers to the minister to whom we were fully accountable to. Therefore, during our time, when the minister, for example, said, “Jump,” we would not just ask, “how high?” but instead ask “why not run, or walk, or skip?”

I get the feeling, from today’s kind and quality of decisions being made, that most officers only proffer the minister three options on simply how to jump, instead of alternative policy options which include “the walking and skipping or running”. Therefore, today’s options are what I call “project-management options but not policy consideration options”.

Any such policy option would also stipulate the intended outputs of the agenda, some interpretation or evaluation of the potential impact, and even some plausible outcome related considerations with views about them.

My greatest fear today is that this kind and quality of public policy analysis is not fashionable any more. More fashionable are MBA-type project management potential costs and benefits calculation, but with all assumptions based on project level extrapolations which cannot be concretely tested or verified.

And when all these are reduced to numbers with a bottom line, they aid decision-making without a full review of all longer term considerations. Therefore, whether we call such projects PKFZ or the Cowgate or Syabas water supply; the so-called Public Policy Analysis stinks and therefore there is much that is rotten in the state of Malaysia!

Therefore and consequently, I am rather amused that the out-going public services chief was dismissed from his job and he apparently does not even know the reason. How can this be?

Usually, it is the Civil Services Department (JPA) which recommends persons considered for new appointments; especially by promotion.

Therefore, I am totally confused that the chief himself does not know why he was suddenly terminated. Who gave this instruction and who determined and signed the letter of termination to the chief? He was the one who usually signs all such letters to others?

Most incompetent decision ever made

If it is as reported, I must say that this singular decision to remove the JPA chief must be the most incompetent decision ever made, if the incumbent genuinely did not know why and for what reasons he was being terminated.

I know that the new salary scheme was introduced and has since been withdrawn. I am one of the so-called potential beneficiaries, through my pension payments. Even if that was so, and even if the JPA chief had opted into this new scheme, I believe he was only 57 years of age and I think the mandatory retirement age has already been extended to 58?

The last time a senior officer of the rank of secretary-general was removed rather abruptly without justification was when an incumbent of the Finance Ministry portfolio was dismissed. I understand this was because the person publicly (even if in a closed meeting) disagreed with the then prime minister about the way forward the financial and currency crisis was handled in 1998.

It was simply a matter of differences in policy options-type of disagreement and it was fair and justified for the incumbent to leave as he was also already on contract by then. Presumably then a normal one-month notice is fine.

Arbitrary and non-rational decision-making is one of the most critical problems facing policy making today. The head of the JPA is always appointed by the Public Services Commission.

The nature and form of consultation and considerations are usually not specified but one thing is always clear. The head of JPA is a very senior appointment and it must be cleared and approved by the Cabinet but the actual appointment must always be made by the Public Services Commission.

Only the appointing authority can ‘dis-appoint’

Likewise the federal constitution is also clear that no authority or body more junior in rank or status than the Public Services Commission can “remove the incumbent JPA head”. This is simply because the federal constitution stipulates that only the appointing authority can similarly “dis-appoint!”

Therefore, these are my questions on the incumbency of the Head of JPA and why he was removed:

  1. Did SPA, as a Public Services Commission, deliberate and seek a consensus on this case before he was told to retire? When was that meeting held?
  2. Was the incumbent not initially appointed by the SPA? If so, what criterion and factors were considered in that appointment? Did those factors and consideration suddenly disappear now?
  3. Usually there is positive vetting for the suitability of the holder for the post of the head of JPA. Was this done in this incumbent’s case? Was it not evident in quite a few Auditor-General’s Reports that the same incumbent was cited for failures as the Defence Ministry’s controlling officer?
  4. I understand that he may have failed in his duties in the conduct and performance of “the salary review” which was finally aborted, but what was the due process for the terms of reference or ToR and subsequent appoint of the review committee? Was he alone in this committee? If not, are the others being equally punished for the same failure? Was the cabinet not involved in the approval of the said “new salary policy” before it was announced for execution? How could have the Pensions Division make payments to pensioners on the new scheme if the cabinet had not approved the policy and therefore payments? Why was the federal cabinet not then held equally liable for the same failures as the incumbent who only made the recommendations? Is this not the Ling Liong Sik argument in court?
  5. I think the SPA must come clean and clarify why the incumbent was removed and what were his failures and also admit if they failed in making the appointment in the first place.


Personally I think it is high time for the public services in Malaysia to be raised to another level of efficiency and effectiveness. All secretaries-general are important policy advisers to any government of the day; and they must all serve without fear or favour. We must move beyond the “Yes Sir three bags full syndrome;” wherein the minister is always right and the policy adviser apparently redundant.

Can someone come clean and clear the name of the former head of JPA so that he and all Malaysians can know why he was asked to terminate his services to the government of Malaysia? And, by the way, what did it cost the tax-payers for this arbitrary decision?



2 comments to Whose Decision Was It Anyway?

  1. says:

    CLY I heard that that officers are often sent to the "pool" for cold storage. These officers draw full pay, enjoys all their privileges and allowances BUT need not do any work except reporting to the office each day and clocking out at the end of the day. They do not even have to be in the office after they clock in and can undertake part-time work outside the office. There are two "pools", one at Putrajaya and for the Premier Grade Officers, it is at INTAN Bukit Kiara. The former Secretary General of the Energy Ministry was an inmate at the INTAN pool. Rumours have it that there are 50 plus Premier Grade officers in the pool. So the head of the Public Service Department is finally joining his charges in the pool. All at the expense of the tax-payers.

  1. says:

    walla Inconsistent prosecution. If the principle was the buck stops at the head, then many other heads of other depts and ministries should have been axed before and after. By ministries, one includes the PM's dept. To wit, including past PMs.

    Also, he could not have acted alone but only on advice, duly communicated, either fully or incompletely. This has not been made transparent which would have been the case if there had been prior investigation shaped by the Govt General Orders which says the person shall be interdicted on half-pay pending formal investigation on specific charges and must be called to defend himself before a governance committee whose members will be at arms-length from the daily operations involved.

    Lastly, the move must have been to try and follow Singapore's reward the best policy. Unfortunately there was an oversight from the very beginning.

    No head anywhere in the zuggurat of this government, past and present, has ever been or will ever be remotely near the shadow of even fifty percent of the best.

    That explains their psychological need to compensate for lack of brains with the sheer monstrosity and worldclass example of myopia, greed and non-coordination that is embodied in the central place they all try to hide themselves. Putrajaya.

    KJ John reading this can hardly fail to agree and should signify as much by delving into how a rm200 million PDRM comms system is now to be marshaled by Mimos for a price tag of rm1.2 Billion.

    Up, up and away, Malaysia.

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