Flabbergasted by PM’s speech – no signs of any new public service delivery system

I am flabbergasted by the speech of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the monthly assembly of staff of the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya yesterday. There are three reasons.

Firstly, Abdullah is the first Prime Minister in the 50-year history of the nation to have given the official sanction to “moonlighting” in the Malaysian civil service, formally placing Malaysia in the footsteps of the Indonesian civil service well-known for “moonlighting” and corruption because of the low pay of the Indonesian government servants.

Although the Star headlined “PM: Don’t moonlight — Civil servants advised to budget and spend money wisely”, other media headlines are more accurate, such as: “Cut down on ‘extra jobs’ advises PM” (Sun), “PM: Outside jobs must not affect official duties” (New Straits Times), “Buat kerja luar jangan jejas productivity: PM” (Berita Harian) and “Gaji naik: Kurangkan kerja sampingan” (Utusan Malaysia).

This is because Abdullah never told civil servants to stop “moonlighting” but “to reduce such activities as they could adversely affect productivity”.

As Bernama reported, Abdullah said the government, aware of the problems facing civil servants in the lower ranks, had ensured that they got a higher percentage of salary increment compared to employees in other categories.

He said: “I’m aware that some employees in the lower ranks, especially those with many children, have to work at night selling nasi lemak, banana fritters or do odd jobs for additional income.

“I respect them for their diligence and the love they have for their family in fullfilling their responsibiities. I also understand that the wives too have to work to help make ends meet.”

Bernama reported that Abdullah however advised them not to do the part-time jobs until late night.

Abdullah has created history of sorts, as his speech is tantamount to an announcement to the world that the Malaysian civil service has fallen from the previous high standards five decades ago when it was regarded as of world-class standards.

This is most surprising as it has come just after RM8 billion civil service pay increases, which had been praised sky-high by the Cuepacs President Omar Osman who said:

“The 35 per cent for the lowest income group is the best ever in our history. The 100 per cent increase in cost of living allowance is exceptional. It was everything that we expected.” (New Straits Times 22.5.07)
In fact, the Cuepacs President said that the civil service “would not be the same again as civil servants had been motivated by way of better wages” and he promised to go on a roadshow to tell civil servants to drop negative habits which had affected their service to the people as “there is no room for the ‘old style’ of work”.

He said civil servants would be told to give up part-time jobs to focus 100 per cent on their jobs, adding: “We don’t want them to hold second jobs any more as they will be taking home a much larger pay packet.”

The Chief Secretary Tan Sri Mohamed Sidek Hassan also publicly held the Cuepacs President to his promise to go on a roadshow to tell the one million civil servants to stop “moonlighting” and focus on their responsibility in the civil service. (NST 23.5.07)

Why did the Prime Minister disregard and veto both the Cuepacs President and the Chief Secretary, both of whom are of the view that the recent RM8 billion civil service salary increases had been structured in such a way that “moonlighting” by civil servants is no more justifiable?

If Abdullah is now giving his stamp of approval to “moonlighting” in the civil service, what are the guidelines for such “moonlighting” and what mechanism has been devised to ensure that public interests of efficiency, courtesy, productivity and integrity are not undermined?

Has the Cabinet officially taken a policy decision to give the stamp of approval for “moonlighting” by civil servants, and if so, when?

The second reason I am flabbergasted is the burden of the Prime Minister’s speech two weeks after the RM8 billion civil salary pay rise.

What was top on his mind was the headline used by Bernama for its report: “PM Raps Govt Employees Who Cannot Sing National Song”.

Abdullah appeared very peeved and annoyed that after a RM8 billion pay rise, some government employees were still not able to sing the “Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang” national song.

At a time when hardly a day passes without a report of another multi-million ringgit government building defect or public construction mishap (today’s press reports the collapse of the ceiling boards of RM27 million Johor Syariah Court Complex which opened its doors early this year), Malaysians would have expected more weighty matters on the Prime Minister’s mind than the “Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang” song.

This brings me to the third reason for being flabbergasted by Abdullah’s speech yesterday — the absolute lack of signs that Malaysia is poised on the eve of a great government initiative to launch a new public service delivery system on June 14.

Last week Abdullah had announced that a new government delivery system would be launched on June 14, promising great things for the people. Is this promise of a new public service delivery system going to be a letdown, turning out to be “empty thunder without rain”?

I hope that after tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, the main features of the new public service delivery system to be launched on June 14 would be delineated for the information of MPs as well as the civil society; and if there is not going to be any launching of a new public service delivery system, a public correction should be made immediately so as not to mislead Malaysians another time.

  1. #1 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 12:32 pm

    I think the main point in his speech was to get them singing the “Gemilang whatever” song

  2. #2 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 12:34 pm

    Luckily the murder case was postponed before June 14th – otherwise people would have thought that was part of the new delivery system.

  3. #3 by smeagroo on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 1:01 pm

    I was just waiting for YB to post this topic and my wish came true.

    PM told the civil servants not to moonlight and then fall asleep the next day. Is he speaking from experience?

    Moonlighting after official working hours is acceptable. Unless he live like a pauper he will never know the sufferings of the rakyat especially the lower income group. The sleepy PM should instead go after his top brass fellas who moonlight and uses govt machineries for their own private businesses and dealings.

  4. #4 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 1:04 pm

    Erm, should be “Somebody done somebody wrong” song.


  5. #5 by k1980 on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 1:12 pm

    Should you see any government officer sleeping on the job, you know who set that fine example

  6. #6 by Iusop on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 1:23 pm

    I find it strange as well – the pm understanding, allowing, even encouraging govt servants to moonlight. During my time as a govt servant (which lasted only two years by the way as I couldn’t stand the sluggishness) taking a second job par-time was a strict no-no.

    Being quite enterprising I resorted to selling life insurance during weekends and holidays. Obviously my colleagues would be my first prospects. But I was hauled up by the dept head who told me that it was against the General Order to do any work or business other than your dept job. He forced me to write a letter promising that I would not do that again. I guess things have changed.

  7. #7 by smeagroo on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 1:25 pm

    And we have a PM who is “teaching” the civil servants to spend wisely? Wahhhh, hebat! Why dont he as Finance Minister use our MONEY wisely and not spend on junks like Court Complex that leaks, Govt offices that had ceilings crashing down and also the never-say-die London Sports Complex (RM70mil). The list goes on and on and he is indirectly telling us to change lifestyle again? While we downgrade they upgrade. MANYAK CANTIK!

  8. #8 by Jonny on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 1:59 pm

    Cemerlang, Gemilang & Temberang song? Got such song? Oh my gosh …

    Such a waste of govt resources. Not to mention all the money wasted on MRR2, High courts, Parliament renovations.

    Malaysia is indeed the laughing stock of the world.

  9. #9 by megaman on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 2:33 pm

    Under normal circumstances, moonlighting is definitely unethical and a no-no but this is assuming that the main job pays enough and adequately which is obviously not so in our civil service.

    Therefore, forcing the lower paid civil servants to moonlight.

    It is rare for a civil servants to be so lowly paid that they cannot live off their main salary. Even rarer and embarassing in a country like Msia where it has enjoyed decades of economic growth and abundance of natural resources.

  10. #10 by tc on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 2:49 pm

    Go ahead and moonlight but dont let it affect your normal working day’s productivity.What a foolish statement.A statement made without going through one’s grey matter.You can make silly statements infront of your family,grandchildren and friends but not to the nation.
    3 common scenarios on moonlighting by government servants:
    a) make and receive calls during office hours thus loss of productivity time,poorer service to the public and phone calls bill charged to the govt and eventually charged to the taxpayers.
    b)trying to sell their products to colleagues thus double productivity time loss.
    a) Regardless how many hours one works it will surely affect his performance not only in his partime job but his fulltime job as well.We are not supermen.Even machine needs rest.
    a) Some senior govt officers provide chargeable”advisory services” to corporate bodies.This will lead to favouritism and conflict of interest as inevitably the officers will do whatever they can to help these companies and at the expense of others.
    If moonlighting is allowed,there will be chaos in all the govt departments as every worker will be busy doing their own partime work to earn extra ringgit afterall, they will still be paid their monthly salaries.Fathom that!

  11. #11 by pwcheng on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 2:52 pm

    What Bernama stated is correct. That was what he actually said as appeared in all the TV news yesterday.

    From what I can see, if we are to continue with a PM like this who after showering them with a RM8 billion increase in salary and then subtly sanctioning their moonlighting activities albeit telling them not to work until too late is just like telling the drug addicts that you can take drugs but do not take too much. Perhaps he is saying all this with the election in mind rather than the nation in mind.

    All this will only inspire the naughty ones to be just as naughty or more likely become more naughty. I really do not see how all this can change the work ethics of the government servants. This will only keep them happy for a while and it is a matter of time they will ask for more citing the same reasons.

    How do you define enough. To some a hundred ringgit is enough but to many a billion ringgit is still not enough. That is why corruption is not only happening at the lower levels but is just as serious at the higher levels, if not worse.

  12. #12 by VoteDAP on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 3:13 pm

    Doesnt he has other better, more constructive advices instead of mumbling like a daddy-figure or religion chief??? Act and speak like a PM-lah, Pak Lah!
    If you realize, his speech always is weak, pointless, uninteresting and yes! calm whenver he has to give out spontaneously. The content somehow a little bit better if he just read it out. Kudos to his secretary.

    Where to go, Malaysia???

  13. #13 by winc on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 3:40 pm

    The subject of privatisation should be raised again under this context.

    Productivity will be a much interesting topic to be discussed. Quantity vs. Quality. If the PM cannot escape to undertake the route to trim the size of his servants; he has no alternatives but to satisfy the majority with a payrise and subsequently go on moderate cautioning on their moonlighting activities. Just a good way of telling that “you should not take so much bribes when you are better paid” instead of “you should not take bribe at all irregardless how much you are paid”.

    Well, now that they are paid better remuneration and what the PM is requesting is rather simple, “lesser moonlighting (does not mean you cannot) but must sing along the song he wants and also expect some delivery in two weeks (which no one knows)”

    Malaysia Boleh….

  14. #14 by shortie kiasu on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 4:37 pm

    Abdullah Ahmad is famous for “re-singing an old tune”. Nothing new or visionary, no action.

    After the “singing” session, every body goes home and continues with the same way, doing the same thing.

  15. #15 by karlmarx8 on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 4:42 pm

    Its no surprise that everybody moonlight be it public or private sector. Whether or not that it affects the full time job its debatable. Spending RM8 billion is not this time and more shall be forth coming in the next 10 or so years…

    What do you expect the PM can do…either to reduce the manpower, save the money and spend it in health sector (I read an article recently that UM paediatric department had to raise fund to finance its expensvie equipments! what a shame…) or that to absorb more unemployed graduates and spend the money on “manpower”? Political and social balancing!

    To enhance the delivery system in a private sector that has 1000 “dinosuars” would take one “generation” let alone in a sector that has 1.2 million of them! It would be very naive to think that can be done overnight with monetary gain with just over 35% increase in wages. Not even at 100% increase! What can be done and reported that certain department do work even on weekend -that is only by impulse! You heard of “15 minutes infatuation”? That’s all about it.

    You would need one generation to get away with the “inherited” mentality of “makan gaji”…to go on the road on result orientated and meritocracy. Now, the word “meritocracy” had send spine-chilling effect on to lots of people. Would anyone dare to try?

    All you got to do is to work harder and pay more taxes and more bailouts you probably will see the effects. Hope so…will you be around then?

  16. #16 by mendela on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 5:04 pm

    Bad-awi said // “I’m aware that some employees in the lower ranks, especially those with many children, have to work at night selling nasi lemak, banana fritters or do odd jobs for additional income. //

    I like to repeat myself: Lower income Malays MUST practice birth controls and Family Plannings!!!

    Not practicing birth controls and making babies years after years would only make you poorer and poorer!!!

    Is birth control against Islam teaching?
    To tell you bluntly, it is against my foot!

  17. #17 by phreak on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 5:16 pm

    Let’s be honest here, making a big Hoo-Haa about the Pay Hike of the Government servants
    is not exactly the calling we need to show that these underpaid individuals are actually getting it
    good. An 8 billion increase in the overall pay packets is huge sum, but then again lets
    look at it on a individual basis. Lets have a dose of reality,
    Is anything less than RM1200 enough to survive in the age of rising costs?
    A pay packet which is at the borderline of poverty and indirectly being told to seek other means
    of income without sacrificing productivity? Why not just give them a pay package thats competitive and
    then enforce the efforts to curb moonlighting?..A simple example, and I’m just citing the obvious,
    For instance, We all know that there are issues involving corruption and bribery on the lower scale government servants,
    despite it being wrong. Its main driving factor is not only greed. We have to drill down further. Assuming that a meagre
    base pay is your only source of income, how in the world are the people supposed to make ends meet?

  18. #18 by WFH on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 6:46 pm

    Very simply, PM AAB is tooooo… “nice”…. MY FOOT!!!
    Not an inkling what the top-job of leadership of a nation is about. Heck, I would not put him as even a Troop leader in the Boy Scouts.. not even Girl Guides…..whoops! So sorry, Scouts/Guides, didn’t mean to put you down.
    Thou the PMship is solely by virtue of his UMNO presidency, never directly voted by the rakyat, the only way therefore is to vote out UMNO/BN. There is no other way, if this country is to survive, no, even to just limp along. With this current government, we are asssured of complete self-destruction on all fronts – economic, social cohesion, education, trade, what-nots..!!!

    I wish I can simply wish you away..!!! Whooosh!!!

  19. #19 by izrafeil on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 9:34 pm

    why do we pay so much tax and pay more unseen tax? these unseen taxes that will bring down BN govt.

  20. #20 by Alvin on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 10:14 pm

    AAB has been our PM who quite a while
    what has he done for Malaysians that we can proud of
    i meant positive tangible actions
    can we actually count them?
    On the contrary,
    if i suggest we list down their “Flip Flops & Boo Boos”
    its quite an exhaustive journey…

  21. #21 by maya on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 2:14 pm

    Dear Uncle Lim,
    Even govt doctors resort to moonlighting, so enough said about the peanuts we get paid. Aboutpayrise, all it means is that now the attendant in my ward is earning the same amount as the assistant nurse, leading to more disenchantment in one group and more laziness in the other. Oh and by the way, i got my PTK results that stated that “anda layak untuk kenaikan pangkat tapi tidak layak untuk kenaikan gaji” in other words, i will have more responsibilities with less incentives to do it. Well, Malaysia Boleh!
    But really uncle Lim, i am disappointed in you. I mean did you seriously expect something better than this speech from AAB?
    I would say this is quite in keeping with his image of being a “nice” leader as opposed to a good/worthy one.
    take care and god bless.

  22. #22 by undergrad2 on Thursday, 7 June 2007 - 6:21 am

    “How do you define enough. To some a hundred ringgit is enough but to many a billion ringgit is still not enough. ” pwcheng

    Thanks for the information.

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