Restructuring will improve quality of civil service: Analyst

03 May 2019 / 11:05 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: The main goal of the nation’s civil service rationalisation exercise should be to attain an optimum size so that public service delivery is not compromised.

When it reaches the ideal size, the civil service will not only become more efficient but will also enable the government to operate it in a more cost-effective manner, according to National Professors Council president Prof Datuk Dr Raduan Che Rose.

Commenting on the government’s intention to downsize the civil service, he said as a nation heading towards attaining developed nation status, what actually needs to be achieved in the effective management of the public sector is to find the right size for it.

“The important thing is to get a balanced ratio between the public service and the nation’s population,“ he told Bernama, adding that to achieve this the portfolios of all the ministries should be reviewed to ensure that there was no duplication of tasks and functions.

The government should also identify units or divisions that provide the same services but are situated in different departments, Raduan said. One example of this is information and communications technology (ICT) services which, he said, can be offered in the form of shared services.

Critical sectors

He also said that the civil service rationalisation exercise should take into consideration those service sectors that have an impact on the quality of life of the people.

Pointing to the health sector as an example, he said in developed countries, there is one doctor for every 400 patients while in Malaysia, the ratio is 1:650.

“Likewise the education sector. The number of students in each classroom is on the rise, so we need more teachers to improve the quality of education.

“And not forgetting the security sector which, if compromised, will affect national security,“ he added.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had on various occasions voiced his concern over the increasing size of the civil service, which now has 1.7 million civil servants.

Recently, on April 12, he told the Dewan Rakyat that if the situation was left uncontrolled, the government’s operating expenditure would soar and eat into the national budget each year.

“This will lead to slower economic growth due to the government’s inability to spend on development projects that would have a multiplier effect in the nation’s economic and social growth,“ he said.

The prime minister also said that the government believed that the civil service can be downsized without affecting the performance and income of the officers who would be involved in the rationalisation initiative.

Transition training

Raduan, however, feels that the present size of the civil service is not “all that big” for a developing country like Malaysia if the staff requirements of the three critical sectors – security, education and health – are taken into consideration.

Currently, as of Jan 1 this year, the security sector had an estimated 250,000 civil servants, education (419,904 teachers) and health (280,000 civil servants).

He also opined that the Public Service Department (PSD) should play a more active role in carrying out transition training programmes for public sector officers to equip them with the necessary skills so that they are prepared for the changes that await them under the rationalisation exercise.

“It’s important to train civil servants to be multi-skilled just in case their departments are involved in the restructuring process, which may see a reorganisation of work processes and the introduction of automation or new technologies,“ he said, adding that civil servants who have the potential to join the private sector should also be given the training to furnish them with the appropriate skills.

This, added Raduan, would call for closer cooperation between the government and the private sector, whereby functions that used to be the responsibility of the public sector can be transferred to the private sector.

“The transfer of the workload from one sector to the other should be done without compromising the quality of service, as required by the nation,“ he said.

Circular

The issue over the trimming of the civil service heated up after PSD issued a circular on Dec 26, 2018, highlighting the government’s intention to rationalise the civil service to avoid wastage and improve the efficiency of the sector.

According to the circular, which went viral on the Internet, the number of posts in ministries and government agencies would be reduced by one percent in 2019.

To allay the fears of civil servants and to avoid more confusion over the circular’s contents, PSD issued a press statement on Jan 25 to explain that the rationalisation exercise would only involve positions that have been left vacant for more than two years.

It said the initiative to control the size of the civil service was not something new as work on it had started since 2015.

The department said several measures would be implemented to improve the quality of public service, including optimising human resources, redeploying staff, outsourcing and filling up positions prudently. — Bernama

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