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theSun

| THURSDAY JUNE 11 2009

INTERVIEWS VIEWS

Conversations

PUBLIC relations has become the buzzword at government agencies but for them, it means organising roadshows, what to put into goodie bags and how many T-shirts to print. They should be turning to the “letters to the editors” pages and addressing the people’s complaints. The challenge is to get people who are proactive, and among the 1.2 million civil servants many are proactive. I believe that some of the people in the public service can do well in the private sector, maybe even better. According to (co-chairman) Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, the people in Pemudah are even better than some in the private sector. So, here, where PR is concerned it’s all about being proactive. Are people in the service allowed to show their potential? Their enthusiasm is cut short by superiors who are more comfortable with the old way of doing things.

CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT AND CO-CHAIRMAN OF PEMUDAH TAN SRI MOHD SIDEK HASSAN IS ON A MISSION TO MAKE THE CIVIL SERVICE MORE PEOPLE FRIENDLY. HE TALKS TO R. NADESWARAN AND TERENCE FERNANDEZ ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATING TO THE PUBLIC.
That’s the beauty of the government; this prime minister and the previous PM encourage empowerment. I don’t check with the PM all the time on certain things because he has empowered me to make the best decisions. But civil servants must have the confidence to act on their own without waiting for clearance from the top over simple matters. That’s why in golf there’s such a thing called local rules. So we also have our own conventions. In each department, if this rule exists, you follow (them), but don’t allow rules to prevent people from doing their best. That’s why I like to promote mentoring. The other question is how many

Getting the message across
bosses like yourself will allow their subordinates to be empowered, proactive and think for themselves without (the bosses) feeling threatened. All! You must allow them to grow. I advise and that’s bilateral. It’s the value of openness. I can say I don’t agree with something but you will not feel uncomfortable. That is the value of connectivity. For example, when you complain about visa or passport issues, when I write to the director-general of immigration, I will copy to you. So when I communicate with him, I will cc a copy to you so that you know what’s happening and can also interject if we are going the wrong way. When you send a message to someone, you must keep everyone else in the loop. So I will forward mail to all the relevant agencies and individuals. This is what corporate governance is all about. One person can do many things, and yet keep everyone else in the loop. If 50% of your KSUs (ministry secretaries-general) can talk or operate like you, then we are on the right track. Your problems are solved. Most times when people complain to us we don’t want to disturb you, but unfortunately things only get moving if it is copied to you. We have quite a number of officials like me. (Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry secretary-general) Datuk Mohd Zain (Mohd Dom) is like me. You go and deal with him and see. If the deputy secretary-general is doing the work without bothering the secretarygeneral then why should the secretary-general be bothered or threatened, as long as he is kept in the loop? It’s better for him because he is not encumbered (with extra work). Are we being double billed as there are internal PR departments but here we are appointing consultants and outsourcing PR to the private sector. Former MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz had no press secretary bar one. She allowed us to speak our minds ... and this from a minister whom many say was “controlling”. Because of her, we made sure we knew the subject. This is what I’m trying to say, we all take charge of our communications, the minister, the secretary-general, the deputy minister … you take charge of your communications just like her. It’s a new process for many and sometimes we need to learn from outsiders. Tan Sri, you were from MITI so that culture followed you and everyone is on the same page. But, for example, look at the Health Ministry during the H1N1 scare. At least brief the media on the scanners and how the detection is done so that when you talk to reporters, we know how it works. Here they are waiting for the director-general to come and regurgitate information. How do we get around this? When I joined the civil service in 1974, the principle was “need to know”. Only when you need to know you must know. When you know more than you need to know, tak boleh! Now it’s “you better know!” If you don’t know you will be in trouble. When you go for a meeting you cannot say “I don’t come from that department or