29 January 2008

Challenges for the new year

The Star

At a special briefing to the media at Putrajaya on Jan 16, the Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan outlined the vision of a customer-centric public service and the many tasks ahead for Year 2008. The following is an excerpt from his wide-ranging speech

THIS year marks a significant point in time for the public service and the nation, as we prepare for the mid-term review of the 9th Malaysia Plan. The process of this review will involve a critical assessment of the public service's strengths, weaknesses and our ability to deliver what the government has promised and set out to achieve in its efforts to ensure the attainment of Vision 2020 and beyond.

Underpinning the 9MP are priorities that would guide Malaysia’s development over the period and ensure that Malaysia is better able to:

1. Compete globally;

2. Strengthen national unity; and

3. Bring about a better distribution of income and wealth and a higher quality of life amongst the people.

This necessitates a clear focus of efforts from the public service as it plays a significant role in the achievement of the outcomes outlined by the 9MP. The successful implementation of these plans lies within the ambit of the government machinery, driven by public officials whose mindsets must change to maintain and deliver to world-class standards.

Commitments for today and tomorrow

The emphasis on providing a first-class public service is a continuous agenda of the government. Strategies may be refined according to circumstances but the agenda remains unchanged.

This year will see a strengthening and augmentation of the initiatives started in 2007. This unwavering agenda is predicated on:

> firstly, effective planning, implementation, monitoring and review;

> secondly, the existence of an empowered quality workforce with the right attitude, skills and working stamina;

> thirdly, that the public service must represent the commitment and passion to the stated priorities of government in both words and actions; and

> fourthly, a thriving and cohesive relationship between the government and the public, nurtured through effective mutual communication, love for quality in service and the pride of being able to live up to expectations and promises.

Initiatives in support of 2008 commitments

The maxim for the public service in 2008 is to institutionalise a consistent quality and turnaround time of service across all 28 ministries, over 720 agencies and 144 local councils across the country. In essence our mantra will be One Service, One Delivery, No Wrong Door.

This year will see a persistent steer towards a more transparent public service.

Creation of transparency requires collaboration from all parties concerned.

We seek proactive public participation towards creating a joint culture for participatory decision making where the public are actively engaged in the process. By so doing, there will be greater empathy between the service and the public and we are able to optimally act in harmony with the public thinking of the times.

We will explore establishing a collaborative audit panel between the public and private Sectors to develop a balanced checking mechanism to avoid loopholes and oversights.

Our ultimate commitment will be to deliver a service culture that places the customer at the core of all services provided by the government based on the following attributes

> reliability and predictability

> high level of responsiveness

> timeliness of response

> courtesy and competence (soft and hard skills)

> customer friendly environment

Areas to reinforce

1. We will review the processes and parameters used to measure public officials’ performance.

2. More effective and accurate research will be undertaken to facilitate planning, implementation, monitoring and review exercises.

3. The public service will be committed to informing the public and its other clients of the progress attained. Greater emphasis will be placed on dialogue, feedback and consultation.

4. Heads of departments will engage with the media on a sustained basis to transparently communicate improvements and changes that are instituted to enhance the public service delivery.

5. Government officials will be required to fulfil human resource empowerment plans as defined by a needs analysis programme to ensure officials with the right skills are placed in the right places in the service.

There is no place in the Malaysian civil service for the “benevolent public official”. The “I-know-what’s-good-for-you” attitude must be shed and replaced with a system of listening to the community. The traditional regulator-regulated relationship between the public and private sectors is being transformed to an ongoing and effective partnership in moving Malaysia forward.

Engagement of all stakeholders from the public service, the private sector, civil society and every Malaysian will ensure that oneness of purpose and shared sense of direction for all as the nation faces the challenges ahead.

There will certainly be those who doubt the approach advocated in this outlook and view it with some degree of reservation.

However, one of the attributes of excellence is to approach with a firm belief that we can be successful if we truly believe in our capacity to do so. The nation expects and demands a higher level of public service delivery for the greater good of all, and we should all rise to the challenge together.

We are here to serve the public. Our very existence and relevance is to ensure our standards of service meet the objective expectations of our customers. We must deliver on our promises.

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