Respect civil service, guidelines in political appointments

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I read a news report that said the Public Service Department (PSD) and Public Service Commission (PSC) are defying the orders of the new government to appoint officers based on the recommended grades as proposed by the new ministers.

In other words, PSD and PSC have decided to follow the established guidelines when assigning grades to political appointees, instead of accepting the recommended grades given by the ministers.

It would appear that many of these political appointees are now applying pressure, through the mass media, to get what they want by stating that PSD and PSC are not following orders.

They want to be appointed to higher grades as recommended by the ministers, regardless of their own qualifications and experience.

In the past, good governance suffered precisely because we allowed political masters to bulldoze through whatever they wanted. They appointed more officers than the rules stipulated and they dished out higher grades than qualifications and experience would have allowed.

I don’t think the new government should behave the same.

If we want an independent and professional civil service, we must allow it to work. Whether we like it or not, the civil service must work based on rules and regulations. If not, abuse, nepotism and corruption will seep in.

There are specific guidelines and circulars when it comes to political appointees. The minister may recommend, but the civil service will decide on their grades based on qualifications and past experience. It can’t be based on whims and fancies of ministers or those about to be appointed.

It takes a normal civil servant with an honours degree at least 20 years to reach Grade 54. May I know how old or qualified these political appointees are?

Fair enough, the ministers have the right to pick and choose whoever they want to serve it their office. But to prevent abuse and to provide checks and balance, the civil service will decide on their suitable grades. This is the system I understand, both as a former civil servant and as a member of the PSC.

In the past, the civil service was abused and has lost its eminence. Should the new government continue with the process, or should it walk the talk on institutional role and independence of the civil service?

-By TK Chua

*TK Chua reads the New Malaysia Times.

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