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  • Kerk Chee Yee

We should not be afraid to fire civil servants

Don’t get me wrong. It’s never in the Pakatan Harapan government’s wishlist to reduce the number of civil servants. At the very least, we are not dismissing any civil servant for the sake of reducing their numbers.

However, 4 months into administration, I have no reservation in opining that the way forward in reforming how our government works is to make governance work.

It’s true that Pakatan Harapan has been voted in as the federal government, as well as the state government in many states. It’s also true that we have changed most of the politicians we did not like, but the failed governance culture is still alive among some of the civil servants.

From the 3-month delay in Putrajaya officers’ paycheck, to the local authority’s order to remove traditional Chinese lettering on Muar buildings only to see the EXCO in charge address the issue the very next day, twice; Malaysians can’t help but recognise that while politicians have been changed, we have not completed the transformation of governance.

Strange as it may sound, politicians’ deeds are in most occasions less impactful in nearly every facet of our citizens’ day-to-day life, compared to the civil servants’.

As a first-term ADUN in Ayer Keroh, Melaka, also a state that has just witnessed change of government for the first time, I lost count on how many times I received calls from angry netizens complaining about services of civil servants - rubbish uncollected for 3 weeks after general election, complaints unattended to and ignored by officers, incomplete works on trees trimming / grass cutting etc.

I do not only refer to the little Napoleons in civil services. In fact, I did not write this statement out of mere wish of dismissing civil servants that have sabotaged the new government due to differing political alignment or other reasons. I’m addressing the larger issue we face in transforming the civil services.

It becomes a political issue if the government of the day wants to fire civil servants when most people don’t understand the reasoning of doing so. People associate and cite the social impact of our actions when civil servants are dismissed; for instance, the impact on the dismissed personnel’s financials, family, children’s school fees etc.

However, when a civil servant does not perform or ill behaves, is the social impact on the society less severe?

I applaud the Minister of Transport Anthony Loke’s swift action in taking JPJ personnels who are involved in graft and power abuse in issuing driving license--most call it ‘Kopi O License”-- to task. That was a good start in tackling the corruption practice that has haunted Malaysians for some time now.

Civil servants are the hands of the government. The performance of the government will always rely on the works done by the civil servants.

If a Prime Minister involved in corruption can be voted out; if an engineer at work who repeatedly does the calculation wrong can be penalised; if a chef who can’t cook what the customers want can be dismissed; if a manager of a company does not hit the budget can be reprimanded; so can our civil servants.

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