Whose decision was it anyway?

KJ John
Jul 17, 2012

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?


KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years.

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 - 2:04 pm

    It’s labouring over the obvious. This is our ‘throwing the buck’ & ‘selective taking the fall’ culture where big issue always get bypassed/overlooked, smaller issue/infractions punished as if to compensate and cover the big issues; small fries are fried whilst big sharks freely roam.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 - 2:06 pm

    So many examples of our ‘throwing the buck’ & ‘selective taking the fall’ culture:
    The controversy in NFC was why was govt RM250 million soft loan given to NFC (related to cabinet minister) but it was businessman Shamsubahrin Ismail who was scapgoated and charged for offering fraudulent advisory services to husband of the Minister.Sime’s massive RM1 7 billion in losses from its engineering unit in 2010 but it was Zubir Murshid who was scapgoated and has to answer for some unrelated losses incurred elsewhere when he allegedly failed to inform Sime’s board that the NCR lands in Sarikei had been awarded to others. PKFZ another big headache on – “who to take the fall”? They got Tun Ling who supposedly cheated of all persons Tun Dr Mahathir. Ling who said he didn’t understand “discounted cashflow” also said he dared not cheart of all persons TDM! 2 F5E jet engines got stolen and went as far as Venezuela: Who’s the fall guy? Some airforce sergeant Tharmendran Nagarajah. Just the other day an MACC assistant superintendent M Mohan was given 13 years jail for RM200,000 bribe though no one punished for 2 who fell out of MACC’s buildings.

  3. #3 by Winston on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 - 3:33 pm

    What matters in the federal government is the sycophancy of the appointee.
    All else are secondary.
    Just carry out your duties as ordered by the head of the ruling coalition and everything’s fine.
    Whether it’s legal, illegal or ultra vires is of no consequence.
    That’s the main reason why this country is in such a mess.
    Nobody dares to stand up and be counted.

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 - 3:35 pm

    ‘…the incumbent genuinely did not know why and for what reasons he was being terminated. …’

    I am no lawyer but if what is written is true, then it would be that the person concerned was dismissed without just cause and reason(s). This would give rise to a legitimate legal action as it would go against all the regulations in place and of course natural justice. So go for it.

    Meantime, join PAS as many others did.

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 - 3:54 pm

    ‘…it is high time for the public services in Malaysia to be raised to another level of efficiency and effectiveness…’

    The civil service like the other organs and arms of government has been ‘transformed’ from what it was previously.

    They are currently run, as you succinctly put it, ”the bags full” way:

    + one for the master
    + one for that dame; and
    + one for those little boys, on the gravy train.

    Our officers today are not capable of thinking even within the box. They only play safe and be good little boys. Why rock the boat?

    Our education system is such that we only nurture obedient servants (Saya yang berikut perintah), not thinking people. They are not required to think but to simply obey, like the two C4 fellows for which they are well rewarded.

    A major overhaul is urgently needed when PR takes charge.

  6. #6 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 - 7:59 pm

    P is for Pegawai, T is for Tadbir dan D is for Diplomatik; therefore PTD officers and therefore they are political, especially the word diplomatic like ambassadors. So who is your boss ? Would you see the Prime Minister as your boss ? Would you see the King as your boss ? The transformation of the salary scheme has been spoken many times before. If you have just enough money, you will be hesitant in raising salaries. Would the hardworking one be given more ? No. It will be the one whom you can manipulate. It is the bitter pill of reality we have to swallow. The raising of salaries cannot wait anymore. But at the same time, some people out there desperately need the money too. They too cannot wait for the money. At the end of the day, it is money that makes and it is money that breaks. The only picture in front is that of the Ringgit Malaysia picture. Nothing else.

  7. #7 by Loh on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 - 9:14 pm

    Mamakthir asks why he is called a dictator. May be he does not have a mirror to look into.

    Mamakthir changed the rules of party election in UMNO, at every election after he replaced UMNO with UMNO Bahru so that he remained unchallenged. He dictated how he stayed as President.

    He used government institutions to serve him as if he was the boss of a secret society.

    He changed government procurement procedures which gave him the absolute right to use government funds including resources at Petronas to serve his interests.

    He destroyed the third pillar of government, the Judiciary, to rule by law. He was thus above the law.

    He made use of the law against terrorists to be against political opponents, such as in operation Lallang where he selectively locked up political opponents, leaving the UMNO Youth of the day who declared that he wanted to soak kris in Chinese blood free to promote racial hatred against minority group.

    He used Petronas funds to buy ships from his son’s company to prevent it from going bankrupt.

  8. #8 by jus legitimum on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 - 11:04 pm

    Mahafiraun still thinks most Malaysians are fools because he does not know why he was called a dictator.Indeed those days he treated the people as fools and the foolish people voted his party and him into power.Maybe the people are not foolish anymore.They are smarter now and they are going to kick him and all his bagage out .

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 19 July 2012 - 12:34 am

    Many dictators were put on trial by international tribunals if not by their own people (after they were deposed). Our dictator not only escaped this fate but has the distinction of initiating a sendiri shiok mock trial (since he has no power to initiate a real one) in which the symbolic War Crimes ‘tribunal’ of KL even found (US president) Bush (with whom he coveted a photo-shoot) and (UK PM) Blair “guilty” of war crimes! He has so many detractors yet no one has initiated a mock trial on him for what he has done!

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