A few years ago, I wrote about ‘that time of the year again“. For those who have followed this blog, they know that I am not talking about festivals like Chinese New Year or Raya or Deepavali. They know that I refer to the time when lay men like you and me feel angry and frustrated towards certain ‘wrongs”, but are powerless to do anything.
For those who are new to this blog, perhaps they can visit the old article if they have the time.
The time of the year which I refer to is of course the release of the Auditor General’s report.
Before I go any further, however, I would like to commend the AuG (to differentiate him from the other AG) for not sweeping things under the carpets in this report, even when this is the last report before a GE is called. Civil servants should be impartial — all things good and bad in those departments that are being audited should be reported without fear or favour, as has been done in this report. I must say that despite the tremendous pressure the AuG must be under to release a rosy report, he has done a good job in giving a fairly impartial reporting, an act other civil servant should follow, if they truly understand the meaning and spirits of democracy.
As in previous years, there are so many instances of abuse and mismanagement in spending. Millions are literally flowing (maybe overflowing will be more apt) out of the government coffers, not down the drains, but certainly going into some vendors or suppliers’ pockets. These people are literally laughing to the bank, since so many items or services are sold to the government at a price many many times the norm..
I wonder why after so many years, weaknesses are still not being corrected, and holes are not being plugged.
There are a few questions that I would like to raise:
1. How many of the previous wrong doers are investigated and charged?
2. Some leaders have mentioned that it was difficlt to charge these wrong doers in court as yo need to prove criminal intent such as proof of corruption. But even if there is no criminal intent (such as corruption) and thus there may not be a case in court, there are certainly an element of negligence and abuse in the anomalies mentioned. When there are abuses and negligence, the government has a right to take disciplinary action against the officers involved. I wonder just how many cases are being given disciplinary punishment? How many out of these anomalies are charged in court?
3. Over the years, departments do not seem to have learn from other departments and same kind of abuses and wastage are happening year in and year out. Is this because officers have known that even if the abuses are highlighted, nothing much would happen to them ?
3. Would it not be wise, in view of many Auditor General”s reports over the years highlighting the same anomalies and weaknesses, to enact a law that make the officer in charge be hauled up in court for abuses and negligence, if the abuses and negligence are viewed as being too excessive ?
4. If little follow up action is done despite the highlighting of these abuses and wastage, or if disciplinary action (such as transferring an officer out to another department) is deemed too lenient , wouldn’t it embolden others to emulate those highlight in the reports and thus perpetuate the culture of wastage and negligence?
5. There are clearly spelt out hierarchy in the civil service. Shouldn’t the supervising officers that are supposed to be the immediate bosses of those highlighted in the AG’s report shame a certain amount of blame? Should it not that disciplinary action be taken against these immediate superiors for failing to supervise their immediate subordinates?
If action is already being taken against these errant officers for their wrong doings and the supervisors for failing in , the action needs to be more publicized to act as deterrent to other officers. Sometimes you need to kill a chicken to warn the monkeys.
The way things are, weaknesses as highlighted in the previous AG’s reports do not seem to have be taken seriously by those running the administration. While carrots ( pay rises and bonuses)are being dangled out so often , sticks must be employed once in while to send the message across that abuses and excessive mismanagement will be sternly dealt with.
So far, the perception among ordinary people is that there are many carrots and few sticks.
Without plugging these holes, we are not going to have an efficient service which is one of the major requirements if we want the country to move out from its also-run status to become a developed country.