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Budget 2018: Monitoring projects good but what about quality?

November 5, 2017

Writer says proposal by Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa does not go far enough, if new committee's scope is only limited to implementation.

COMMENT

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By Ramon Navaratnam

The public should congratulate the Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa for setting up a committee to monitor the implementation of programmes and projects proposed under Budget 2018.

We should also welcome the inclusion of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in this monitoring committee, so as to combat corruption and leakages.

But many questions will arise in the people’s mind on the role of this committee.

Will this useful committee monitor the implementation of only the Budget 2018 projects and programmes?

Should it not be clearly stated that this committee should be a permanent monitoring committee, to monitor the implementation of all projects and programmes in the future?

Also, could this implementation committee also monitor the physical maintenance of past projects?

As we have all noticed, many government offices, facilities and programmes have been relatively neglected.

Maintenance in many government buildings have become inefficient and even sadly unsafe.

Will this implementation committee therefore, review and monitor the maintenance of government buildings?

Aside from maintenance, will the implementation committee ensure that previously approved policies and programmes will also be monitored to ensure that delivery is done according to the original goals set for such policies and programmes?

Or have they gone off the track and are they still being funded every year, without too much scrutiny?

The chief secretary and the civil service will gain more support if this issue is clearly made known to the public.

Quality of services

While the implementation of budget projects can be monitored for effective and timely completion, what about the monitoring of the quality of the services these projects provide to the public?

Can the implementation committee also monitor the quality of services and report back to the public?

The public has become gradually conditioned to accepting poor quality services in some government departments and offices.

Unlike in the business sector, the public cannot avoid doing business with inefficient departments as these departments have the monopolies to issue licenses, permits, tax concessions and exemptions, etc.

Passports are now provided so much faster but can it be said for many other government services, and why not?

Need for ombudsman

At this time when we are aiming to graduate to become a developed country by 2020, is it not timely to establish the post of ombudsman?

The chief secretary`s new implementation committee can go right ahead even before the year’s end with its pioneering and laudable mission, to monitor implementation.

But could the government appoint an ombudsman and approve staff for his office, to receive and independently advise the implementation committee and Parliament on all public complaints?

This move will serve the public interests, in a more balanced, efficient and empathetic manner and earn much more public appreciation.

The rakyat will warmly welcome the initiative by the chief secretary to set up this new implementation committee comprising top officials in our country.

Public expectation for less corruption and leakages and expenditure wastage will now arise considerably. We now hope for faster and more efficient services to the public.

This public desire for better quality government services will also be raised by the realisation that the government has been generous in providing the civil service with more rewards for their loyal service to our beloved country.

Ramon Navaratnam is chairman of the Asli Center for Public Policy Studies.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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