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Multi-level entry system for civil service (Updated)

Updated 4:20pm, 28 April 2009

PUTRAJAYA, 28 April 2009: Datuk Seri Najib Razak today proposed that top posts in the public sector service be opened to talents from the private sector and government-linked companies (GLCs) besides the administrative and diplomatic service.

The prime minister said that this structural reform in the civil service was proposed in the interest of the people.

“We can no longer be too dogmatic, we have to get the choicest, best and refined talents in the interest of the people,” he said at the 10th Civil Service premier event at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here.

He said his proposal for a multi-level entry system for the civil service would benefit from the cross-fertilisation between the talents of the public and private sectors and the GLCs.

He also proposed an open-door policy whereby civil service officers can be loaned to the GLCs and vice versa for mutual acquisition of knowledge.

Najib said that in this way, civil service officers could be exposed to the needs of the private sector, which is the primary mover of the country’s growth.

To get the best talents, the civil service must emulate the career development and talent scouting plan of entities like Petronas, Permodalan Nasional Berhad and Bank Negara which had a system for identifying real talent which their organisations great.

“We will send the best of our public servants to gain knowledge at several renowned institutions in the world like the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania,” he said.

He also outlined four paradigm shifts that the civil service must make to modernise the sector.

Firstly, it should be more flexible and civil servants should realise that it was the private sector and not the government which churned out the wealth.

Najib said the public sector should simplify ways to generate wealth without losing sight of its role as guardian of the public interest.

“Public servants should never block this process of generating wealth because if they do, in the final analysis, it is the people who will lose.

He said that from the wealth generated by the private sector, the government could have a share in the form of corporate tax and the revenue collected could be used to develop the nation and pay civil servants.

The second shift was to move away from the culture of output and expenditure, or outright impact, to one which valued the aspect of holistic outcome.

“The civil service should move from the paradigm of evaluating success based on output to one based on outcome,” he said, citing as example education where emphasis should be given not only to having enough schools and laboratories but also the overall  success, including the students welfare and morale.

Another example cites was emphasis not on the number of meetings held or the frequencies of overseas trips but on the outcome of these meetings and trips.

Najib said that thirdly, the public sector should move away from bureaucracy which made things difficult to one which made things simple and easy for the people.

He said the assumption now was that the civil service was bloated and far behind changes in the country and globally whereas the government spent a quarter of its operating expenditure on emoluments for the public sector.

Emoluments for the public sector amounted to RM28 billion in 2006, RM32 billion (2007) and RM41 billion (2008) and the people were questioning whether it was worth it, he added.

He said the people’s complaints about the counter service and the difficulty in getting served by phone had raised negative assumption of the civil service as being a stumbling block rather than a facilitator in getting things done.

“Why cling to a bureaucracy that makes things difficult? Move to a bureaucracy with simpler methods,” he said, adding that one of the best examples was the Inland Revenue Board with its e-filing which was a simple, creative and innovative approach.

The fourth shift was from one of mere productivity to a combination of productivity, creativity and innovation.

He said the conventional measurement of productivity only gave incremental improvement whereas a combination of productivity, creativity and innovation would provide a quantum leap in improvement and spur efficiency and effectiveness in the civil service.

He said the assumption that every problem could be solved by setting up new departments or agencies or increasing staff was an obsolete view.          

“We must control the size of our government because the government does not know everything or have a solution to every problem. The reality is that the era of a huge government and a government that knows everything is over,” he said.

Najib wanted all government departments and agencies to maximise the application of creativity and innovation, saying that the prime objective was to enhance the satisfaction of the public sector’s main clients, namely the people. — Bernama

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