July 30, 2012
Permandu, what can you really DO?
IT WOULD be insulting to our readers if we give the dictionary meaning of the word “transformation”. But if you are one of those who keep a dictionary on your breakfast table, a quick glance will tell you that the key operative word in the definition will be “change”.
“Change” is not a four-letter word and it has been used liberally and literally over the past few months, especially in connection to the impending general election.
We will not debate the politicians on their interpretation of the word and instead address issues related to the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and its movers and initiators – Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) – to explain the meaning of the word and its implications.
In this column last Monday, among others, an important question was raised: “Are government agencies listening and implementing policies and guidelines promulgated by Pemandu?” Today, we have to pose yet a more important question: “Does Pemandu listen to the voices of reason and address the many shortcomings in its system and respond immediately?”
One major complaint from the public is that government departments and agencies do not address issues raised and instead, choose to procrastinate, hoping that the problems will go away. But when Pemandu, being the forebearer of change, does not practise what it preaches – change in the mindset and thinking of people who run these departments and agencies – then Joe Public should not be faulted for concluding that Pemandu’s existence is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
It’s not that Pemandu does not have the resources to undertake the simple task of responding to reports in the media. What’s so difficult in telling the world the nitty-gritty of what it claims to have achieved? The issues that were raised do not come under the ambit of the Official Secrets Act nor do they need extensive research for the answers. Besides, at its beck and call are professionals and experts, public relations and advertising agencies, on whom it has spent millions over the past two years.
To make it simple for the Pemandu bosses to understand, let’s have answers to these questions:
- Does Pemandu recognise that corruption has permeated most areas of society and public perception is that nothing gets done without greasing someone’s palm?
- What can it do to ensure that government departments and their heads comply with policies and guidelines in their procurement system?
- Can Pemandu ensure that an open and transparent procurement system is implemented when it comes to government jobs?
- Will we see the end of the Ali-Baba system which has firmly entrenched itself in the procurement system?
- What can Pemandu do when evidence is presented that contracts were awarded under dubious circumstances?
- Can Pemandu stop the rent-seekers who are used to shaking their legs and collecting millions of ringgit?
- Will Pemandu prop-up and support civil servants who stand up to their political bosses and insist on going by the book?
- And very importantly, will Pemandu as an agency which promotes transparency and accountability, open its books for public scrutiny? After all, it is funded by taxpayers’ money and surely, they have a right to know if their money has been well-spent.
Pemandu may want to argue that answers to some of these questions are beyond its purview but as the agent of change, should it not propose for formulation of policies or for that matter, demand for legislation to prevent such abuse?
It is understandable that Pemandu does not have powers of enforcement or prosecution. But as a government agency under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Department, surely it has enough clout to compel every civil servant (through the offices of the Chief Secretary to the Government, Dr Hamsa Ali, ha!ha!) to comply with reasonable directives. There are sufficient clauses in the General Orders to act against errant officers or those who defy such lawful directives. But will the big stick be wielded?
As much as many who view that Pemandu may have achieved something since 2010, there are many who have negative perceptions. Pemandu has to take the bull by its horns by addressing issues. It cannot hide behind the paid-for TV programmes and commercials and advertorials. It has to come out with its guns blazing failing which, it will be considered an agency trying to sell ice to the Eskimos.
R. Nadeswsaran supports many of Pemandu’s initiatives but it certainly falls short in some areas. He is editor (special and investigative reporting) and can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org