21 October 2007

Good service was his motto

The Star

Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat, the man who made it possible to renew one’s passport in an hour and get the MyKad in 24 hours, is calling it a day after serving the civil service for 34 years.

FOUR years ago, the newspapers published reports with pictures of people waiting in long lines for their passports to be processed at the Pusat Bandar Damansara Immigration office counters.

The following day Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made a surprise visit to the office, and with him was Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat.

After the visit, the PM asked Aseh, who was secretary-general of the Home Ministry, to do something about the problem.

He did, and thanks to Aseh, applying for or renewing a passport these days is now a breeze. It takes about an hour to get the passport done.

Saying goodbye: Aseh packing up his belongings at the office last week. He believes the civil service must be equipped with the right attitude to serve the people competently.
He also set out to make the process of getting the MyKad as painless as possible to the public. Now, the MyKad can be issued within 24 hours.

These are just some of Aseh’s initiatives in his quest to ensure that the departments under his ministry serve the public in the most efficient manner. The public had long suffered the inconvenience of queuing up hours at both the Immigration and Registration counters, and Aseh was determined to put a stop to it.

Immediately after the Prime Minister left that day, Aseh summoned immigration officials to a closed-door meeting.

Recalling the events of that meeting, he said: “They gave all the excuses for the long lines.”

After patiently listening to them, he said, he told them bluntly: “The public do not want to know your problems, they want their problems attended to efficiently and without any delay.”

He said he also reminded them of their client's charter and emphasised that: “Customer service satisfaction means delivering the service in a way that leaves the customers feeling appreciated, respected and cared for.”

To make sure that the officers, including those from two other departments under his Ministry (Rela and the Registrar of Societies), were kept on their toes, he conducted spot checks to keep track of them. And it was no mean feat, as his portfolio covers one of the Government's largest delivery system, with Rela's 475,000 employees and volunteers, Immigration checking in 20 million visitors entering and exiting, the Registration Department issuing about 20 million Mykads, and the ROS monitoring thousands of societies annually.

Before the Internal Security Ministry was established, the police, prisons, civil defence, and narcotics also came under his portfolio.

Aseh, who retired on Friday after serving the Government for 34 years, has, in the past seven years as the Home Ministry secretary-general, put Malaysia on the world map by introducing the multipurpose Mykad, electronic passport and the auto gate at this country's major entry points.

He also initiated the adoption of the biometric version of the smart passport and the online visa application process, the foreign workers biometric monitoring system, and the I-kad for foreign students, workers and expatriates.

But he admitted that he did not do it all alone as he had a team of leaders with vision who helped to implement the projects.

While sorting out his stuff prior to leaving the office, he explained that delivering the service went “beyond the smile and a simple thank you”.

“Today’s customers are more exposed and have high expectations. To deliver a courteous service, service personnel need to be able to communicate with empathy, competence and commitment towards the customers,” he said.

“I repeatedly tell my officers that customers do not want to fill too many forms and go through red tape for approvals.”

Prior to becoming secretary-general, Aseh was the Immigration Department’s director-general. While holding the job, he innovated on several processes and cut short the application process for maids.

No doubt, his concern for improving the quality of the civil service stemmed from the fact that he was secretary-general of a ministry, but it could also be due to his position as president of the Administrative and Diplomatic Service Association.

Aseh has reminded his association members, who form the cream of the civil service, that: “It's those who serve the people who need to be nurtured to assure organisational success.

“Our job is to ensure that the civil service is equipped with the right attitude to serve the people competently.”

On his plans for the future, this father of four (three boys and one girl) said: “I would like to spend time building up my family as I may have neglected them in the past while serving the country.”

But he is also “open to anything in which I can continue to serve the people,” he said, adding that he has been appointed chairman of the cooperative that caters to Rela members.

Aseh said he leaves the service with about 100 leave days forfeited.

“In all my years of service, I only took leave for Haj and other important family concerns. To me, service to the people is my top priority.”

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