December 31, 2013
Lack of Accountability is a major stumbling to Malaysia’s progress
by Tan Siok Choo@ww.thesundaily.my
ACCOUNTABILITY is an infrequently used word in Malaysian authorities’ lexicon. Regulators’ persistent refusal to determine who was responsible for a mishap is effectively a denial of accountability. If allowed to continue, this no-fault syndrome could stymie Malaysia’s progress.
Parts of buildings and flyovers sag, MySikap, a new online transaction system, generated chaos while Malaysian students fare poorly in international assessments.
Despite injuries to individuals, property damage, massive inconvenience to car owners and question marks about Malaysia’s education system, determining how and why all these reversals happened is still lacking.
Possibly the most egregious example of construction frailties is Serdang’s seven-year-old hospital. Since 2011, the hospital has suffered from seven instances of crumbling masonry.
On December 4 this year, the emergency ward’s ceiling fell, the second occurrence within a month. Five days later, a similar failure hit its staff quarters. A partial collapse also plagued the intensive care unit, maternity ward and the main lobby which suffered twice – first in January 2011 and again a year later.
Thanks to tremendous public pressure, the Health Ministry named Ranhill Sdn Bhd as the developer who built this hospital. Till today, the authorities have yet to publicly announce whether an investigation has been undertaken to explain why these mishaps happened and what action is being taken to prevent future recurrences.
On February 28 this year, part of a flyover in Cyberjaya tumbled.According to newspaper reports, the flyover was built by PKNS, completed in 2009 and handed to Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan (PLUS). Denying the flyover was handed over to it, PLUS disclaims responsibility for the partial collapse.
On the issue of responsibility for the flyover, the authorities remained resoundingly silent.Terengganu has witnessed so many instances of crumbling construction that Kuala Terengganu MP and architect Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin says the state is now nicknamed “Terengganu Darul Runtuh”.
Incidents that have given the state this unofficial moniker include:
- in June 2009, the ceiling of the RM292.9 million Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium broke while early this year, the steel structure propping up the roof fell;
- in October 2009, the roof of the Masjid Kampung Batu Putih in Kerteh crumbled;
- in May this year, the roof of Masjid Kampung Binjai Kertas in Hulu Terengganu gave way; and
- in September this year, the Kampung Tebauk mosque in Bukit Tunggal was similarly afflicted.
Despite the plethora of construction woes bedevilling Terengganu, state and federal officials have remained eloquently silent.
Another eyebrow-raising event was the shambles caused by the new MySikap portal that prevented thousands of consumers last month from registering car ownership, renewing their driving licences and undertaking other car-related transactions.
Initially, a top official from the Road Transport Department announced the setting up of an independent panel to assess MySikap’s problems. Several days later, he reversed this decision without offering any explanation.
Although he proposed a system upgrade and suggested the portal could be stabilised by using additional servers loaned by IBM, will these proposals prevent another mishap without launching an investigation into why MySikap failed?
Emulating the Transport Ministry is their counterparts from the Education Ministry. Admittedly, the latter has announced their determination to improve Malaysian students’ dismal performance in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
No Education Ministry official has explained the performance gap between local and international assessments. Without this root cause analysis, how will these officials know whether Malaysia’s education system needs a revamp?
In the recent PMR examinations, 7.33% of students obtained Grade A in all subjects. In contrast, only 2% of our students were the highest achievers in the 2011 TIMSS and 1.3% in the 2012 PISA, Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang claims.
Yet another troubling issue – why was Malaysia ranked 52nd among 65 countries in the PISA assessment while Vietnam attained a surprisingly lofty ranking of 17th?
Differences in the marks obtained by Vietnamese and Malaysian students aren’t a fissure but a chasm. Vietnamese students scored 511 for maths, 509 for reading and 521 for science while their Malaysian counterparts’ results were nearly 100 points lower – with 421, 424 and 425 respectively.
Accountability doesn’t mean indulging in a blame game. Without determining why the performance of Malaysian students have stagnated and possibly declined, will the authorities’ proposed remedial action be effective?
This is akin to a doctor prescribing a proposed course of treatment without undertaking a biopsy to determine whether a growth is benign or malignant.
A starting point for any improvement must begin with an understanding of what went wrong. Next is determining why the failure happened. Only then can the process of renewal and rebuilding begin.Acknowledgement of a failure is the essential first step towards progress.