A government that delivers

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Ali Hamsa
Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia

Interview with Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia

By Imran Saddique

Q: It has been well documented that the Internet and social media have changed the relationship between the government and the people it serves – be it in the West or in Asia. How has the Malaysian government adapted to the social media age? What challenges do you foresee the government will have in terms of connecting with ordinary Malaysians?

A: The Malaysian government has adapted well to the Internet and social media age, as all ministries. A majority of government agencies at all levels of government, namely federal agencies, state agencies and the local authorities have either Facebook, Twitter or blog accounts linked to their websites and portals. As of June 2013, there are a total of 755 agency Facebook and Twitter accounts, and this is envisaged to increase in the near future. Apart from this, I have also encouraged all secretaries-general and heads of departments to have their own personal Facebook accounts. This, I feel, is vital to address the demands imposed on the public to the government. On the other hand, we also need to ensure that the public is not misinformed or misled by anti-government messages posted by irresponsible parties through the social media. Hence, this is where the secretaries-general and heads of departments can play their role in correcting misinterpretation or misconceptions, and to inform the public on the new programmes and activities involving the public at large.

The government also recognises the vast opportunities and tremendous potential that can be harnessed from the use of social media in the Malaysian government. We anticipate its potential to transform the landscape in how it relates to, as well as engage and collaborate with the people and the civil servants. This has encouraged us to explore further areas where we can leverage on the use of social media tools. For a start, social networks can be utilised as a platform to reach out to the people and to engage with them. This can be done by adapting government procedures and communication strategies to embrace the use of social media networks to collaborate and elicit their support and feedback with regard to our plans, policies and programmes. By this, we can aspire to be more transparent in our decision-making and formulation of policies.

In addition, social media tools provide us with the means to encourage the participation and involvement of the people in their communities. By doing so, we can look forward to them playing a more active role in making their community and country a better place to live, work and play. For example, complaints over potholes, uncovered manholes or faulty traffic lights in their community can be uploaded and reported to the relevant authorities for action. Vandalism of recreation facilities too can be reported and lots more. In this way, the communities can help the government to solve their grouses and complaints expeditiously.

Inter-agency and intra-agency collaboration and coordination across the government is also necessary for an efficient and effective government. Some of the examples are in the preparation of the national budget, Malaysia Development Plans or in the case of natural disasters such as epidemics, floods and other disasters that require the collaboration and cooperation of a number of agencies. These can be facilitated by the use of appropriate social network tools.

Malaysia’s ICT landscape is enriched with many service channels together with numerous communications and ICT services. For example, our mobile penetration for the country has grown from 76 per cent in 2009 to 128.7 per cent in 2012. The high rate of mobile penetration provides a great opportunity for government to deliver its services to the public.

Q: What challenges do you foresee the government will have in terms of connecting with ordinary Malaysians?

A: As with any technology, it is a double-edged sword. We seek the optimal use of social media in the government. To do this, we need to provide the “Do’s and the Don’ts” to civil servants in the use of media social tools. In this regard, guidelines and tips will be provided on the management of official social media sites such as in the timeliness, manner and content of response. It also necessitates that comprehensive change programmes be put into place and implemented not only at the government agency’s level but also at the national level. We would like all Malaysians to be included in our journey to be more digital and savvy. A challenge we face is in bridging the digital divide in the country between the rural areas with 19.8 per cent penetration and urban areas with 82.2 per cent, to increase the national broadband penetration rate that currently stands at 66.8 per cent.

As mentioned earlier, social media networks open up new possibilities and opportunities for the government to stay, if not become more relevant to the people, target groups and communities it serves. Hence, the government must demonstrate creativity, innovativeness and a readiness to integrate this new platform into its communication and engagement strategies. To reap the benefits of social media, it is apparent that change management plans have to be put in place to inculcate the culture and good practice of using social media in the public sector.

Ali Hamsa2Q: The National Transformation Agenda entails reform and change in many aspects of the Malaysian economy and, of course, the government and the way it is run and delivers its services. How will the Malaysian government stay relevant in the face of this agenda? What is the ideal role of government, in your opinion, in a middle-income country that is striving for developed country status?

A: Vision 2020 has charted out the future course of our nation: To achieve a developed country status in our own mould; The New economic model which entails a high-income advanced nation with inclusiveness and sustainability as key thrusts by 2020; and growth based more on domestic economic activities rather than international exports.

The 2008 financial crisis was a major challenge to achieving Malaysia’s vision. Something needed to be done quickly to remedy the situation and to get us out of the middle income trap. The Malaysian government introduced the National Transformation Agenda (NTA) in 2010 to accelerate our efforts that encompass the political, economic and government spheres. The NTA is premised upon six transformation programmes covering the economic, government, political, social, community and digital agenda. These six areas are inter-related and vital towards achieving developed nation status vis-à-vis societal maturity. The NTA is part of the government development agenda, which translates policies into projects. It is part and parcel of government planning such as the five-year Malaysia Plan, New Economic Model etc.

The Malaysian government, as other governments, is faced with operating in a rapidly evolving global environment. Increasing demands and expectations for better, faster and more affordable public services coupled with fiscal sustainability and increasing complexities are the norms facing governments of the day. Citizens today have high expectations of service delivery levels in terms of quality, quicker response and more personalised services, due to the advancement in ICT. With an increasing number of people using social networking in their personal lives, the government must take advantage and utilise this medium to engage and communicate with the people especially the younger generation. The government will continuously improve its delivery system where public needs have the highest priority in line with our motto of “People First, Performance Now”. A “Whole-of-Government” approach is being adopted where a higher level of inter-agency collaboration and cooperation is undertaken to ensure cross-cutting issues are addressed seamlessly across portfolio boundaries.

Based on our experience, an ideal government should have the following characteristics:

* Innovative – new way of providing citizen-centric services, for example the Urban Transformation Centres (UTCs) and Rural Transformation Centers (RTCs);

* Agile – responsive to changing conditions and citizen expectations;

* Co-creation and co-production – develop policies and design services that respond to the individual needs and are relevant to their circumstances. Co-creation and co-production are emerging concepts that describe sustained collaboration between government agencies, NGO’s, communities and individual citizens. This requires a major shift in the culture and operation of government agencies;

* Transparency and accountability – accommodating citizens’ right to know.

Attracting, nurturing and retaining talent will be a top priority for the government, with the focus on attracting high calibre young talent, leveraging the best practices of agencies within the economy, and designing flexible schemes which matches placement with qualifications and preference.

The government will exercise prudent spending to ensure fiscal sustainability while not compromising citizen expectations. This means doing more for less, that is, by significantly improving productivity to deliver better outcomes. An outcome-based approach is being practised within the planning, resource allocation, monitoring and evaluation processes. The government will also assume the role of a catalytic facilitator through the design of effective policies and regulations. This is to create an enabling environment for the private sector to leverage its potential so that it becomes a more significant engine of growth for the economy. In tandem with this, the participation of the private sector via public-private partnerships, including private funding initiatives, will be enhanced in the delivery of public services.

Via the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the government seeks to encourage the private sector to drive economic growth whilst enabling public investments to stay focused on catalytic projects. By 2020, it is hoped that private investments would make up to more than 90 per cent of total investments in the country. Large, public sector-driven catalytic projects would include those such as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and River of Life (ROL), among others. Through this catalytic approach, the ETP is aimed at impacting the entire Malaysian economy and not just the Entry Point Projects (EPPs) identified under the NKEAs. The investment flows into these NKEAs will result in wider spill-over effects to other economic sectors.

Under the ETP, one of the Strategic Reform Initiatives focuses on Reducing Government’s Role in Business (GRiB) which aims to rationalise the government’s role in business to achieve three main goals: to avoid crowding out the private sector, increase the liquidity of the capital markets and improve the government’s fiscal position. Towards achieving these goals, the government will clearly establish its role in business, develop a divestment plan for government-linked investment companies (GLICs) and establish governance guidelines for government/ministry and state-owned companies. The government will also gradually evolve its role in business from being an investor to becoming a facilitator by co-investing with the private sector in projects that will boost GNI, focussing in businesses directly related to national security, such as defence and food security, limiting investments to businesses that involve large capital investments, require long gestation periods and participating in national infrastructure projects such as renewable energy and public transport systems. The private sector will take the lead role in terms of making investment and employment decisions. The projects and opportunities that are identified in the ETP have been co-created by the public and private sectors. Importantly, most of the projects and opportunities identified will be mainly funded from private sources. As such, the government’s role will be that of an active facilitator of the private sector through policy support and provision of resources, rather than the principal driver, as it has been in the past.

Ali Hamsa1Q: Please provide a brief outline of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP). What steps have you taken to ensure the Malaysian government is more “efficient, dynamic, competitive and market driven”? What flaws have you noticed in the government system that you have worked to improve?

A: The GTP is an ambitious, broad-based change programme to fundamentally transform the government into an efficient and public-centered institution. Under the GTP, 7 National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) were identified, together with relevant Ministerial Key Results Areas (MKRAs). From this, quantifiable National Key Performance Indicators (NKPIs) i.e. the targets of each NKRA, were introduced to help gauge the success of each individual initiative thereby providing real and measurable standards. Some of the challenges faced in the transformation of the civil service and the government system, is the tendency to work in silos. Therefore, the Public Service Delivery (PSD) Strategic Reform Initiative (SRI) has two objectives:

1) to accelerate the government’s efforts in becoming more efficient and facilitative in both business and public-related services; and

2) to transform the country’s 1.4 million civil servants into a motivated, high-performing workforce.

Efforts are on-going to ensure continuous improvement of governance, and to promote efficiency. Within the PSD SRI, feedback and engagement is sought from all stakeholders so that any initiatives or projects are executed to meet their expectations. Some of the key thrusts of transformation that are being looked at currently are getting each ministry to come up with transformation initiatives that benefit the citizens, the business community and civil servants; providing the necessary skills and guidance for the ministries to lead the initiatives by helping them break down the silos and working cohesively with other ministries and agencies to resolve any issues; benchmarking against best practices in other countries; and effective implementation through the best cohesive project governance.

Two agencies are currently undertaking the transformation process i.e. the Public Services Department (PSD) and the Ministry of Finance. The PSD is implementing five core strategies for successful transformation of public service into a high-performing, credible, dynamic and people-oriented sector, namely rejuvenation, re-engineering, institutionalisation, inclusiveness and common values. The first phase of the transformation initiative has seen the PSD reduce its staff by 387 in the last three months. The National Transformation Programme is also complemented by the National Blue Ocean Strategy, which is the brain child of Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak. Introduced in 2009, NBOS is Malaysia’s made-to-order version, utilising its concepts and tailoring it to fit the country’s needs. The over-arching aim would be that Malaysia becomes a high-income, happy and low tax country. The spirit behind NBOS is summed up succinctly in six words: Low cost, high impact, rapid execution. NBOS has broken down the “silo mentality” that is often said to exist within and between government agencies. NBOS also encourages active engagement with the private sector and civil society, hence providing a more holistic approach when formulating policies or drawing up programmes for the people. To date, 52 initiatives involving more than 80 government agencies have been introduced under the ambit of NBOS, benefiting different segments of the people and touching their lives at a more personal level.

Q: In your interview that you gave with our contributor, Ms. Firoz Abdul Hamid, you spoke about the smart partnerships that need to be developed between the media and business. How would you describe the government of Malaysia’s relationship with the media?

A: The government and the media have a good, symbiotic relationship built on years of trust, understanding and respect. The media is the bridge linking the government with the people, and looks upon the media to report news justly and fairly, and exercise the freedom of speech responsibly. The government has always believed in establishing a good relationship with the media fraternity, and this has not waned. Government agencies engage the media regularly, either in a formal setting to disseminate information about government initiatives, policies and programmes, or in informal events as a way to build ties and strengthen relations. I myself hosted a dinner with the media fraternity last year as a means to get-together informally, and will host yet another event again this year.

Q: Corruption is prevalent in every government in every country in the world bar none. However, in some countries, this scourge is more widespread. The recent Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) Survey 2013 suggested that the general Malaysian public is keen on fighting corruption, but the majority perceive the government to be falling in this task with public officials/civil servants viewed as one of the bigger culprits. Is this perception justified? How can you change this view?

A: As it has been rightly mentioned, the keyword used here is perception. A big part of the discussion and debate on corruption is a matter of perception versus reality. These are two very different concepts. A number of different initiatives were implemented under the Anti-Corruption NKRA to stem corruption. Malaysia will intensify efforts and continue to push for improvements across the social, political and business arenas. There have been a number of different initiatives that have been implemented under this NKRA. One of the most significant initiatives, that serve to combat corruption in both the public and private sectors, is the introduction of the Whistleblower Protection Act in 2010 to ensure that people best positioned to report corrupt practices would receive the proper support and protection. Amendments will be made to the Societies Act of 1966 with the aim of preventing internal leakage of funds within political parties which means the amendments are that all donations must be channelled to the party, and not individuals and that all donations received must be properly receipted and audited. As of this year, it is also a requirement for the Special Officers to the Ministers to declare their assets to their respective Minister as well as to the Chief Secretary.

The Corporate Integrity Pledge was launched in 2011 to deal with corruption in the private sector. This initiative will be further strengthened with the amendment of the MACC Act to include a provision on Corporate Liability. This will ensure that corporations take responsibility for the corrupt acts conducted by the employees on behalf of the company. The appointment of a Minister of Governance and Integrity in the cabinet line-up in May 2013, clearly reflects YAB Prime Minister’s resolve towards fighting corruption.

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia

Interview with Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Ali Hamsa
Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia

Interview with Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia

By Imran Saddique

Q: It has been well documented that the Internet and social media have changed the relationship between the government and the people it serves – be it in the West or in Asia. How has the Malaysian government adapted to the social media age? What challenges do you foresee the government will have in terms of connecting with ordinary Malaysians?

A: The Malaysian government has adapted well to the Internet and social media age, as all ministries. A majority of government agencies at all levels of government, namely federal agencies, state agencies and the local authorities have either Facebook, Twitter or blog accounts linked to their websites and portals. As of June 2013, there are a total of 755 agency Facebook and Twitter accounts, and this is envisaged to increase in the near future. Apart from this, I have also encouraged all secretaries-general and heads of departments to have their own personal Facebook accounts. This, I feel, is vital to address the demands imposed on the public to the government. On the other hand, we also need to ensure that the public is not misinformed or misled by anti-government messages posted by irresponsible parties through the social media. Hence, this is where the secretaries-general and heads of departments can play their role in correcting misinterpretation or misconceptions, and to inform the public on the new programmes and activities involving the public at large.

The government also recognises the vast opportunities and tremendous potential that can be harnessed from the use of social media in the Malaysian government. We anticipate its potential to transform the landscape in how it relates to, as well as engage and collaborate with the people and the civil servants. This has encouraged us to explore further areas where we can leverage on the use of social media tools. For a start, social networks can be utilised as a platform to reach out to the people and to engage with them. This can be done by adapting government procedures and communication strategies to embrace the use of social media networks to collaborate and elicit their support and feedback with regard to our plans, policies and programmes. By this, we can aspire to be more transparent in our decision-making and formulation of policies.

In addition, social media tools provide us with the means to encourage the participation and involvement of the people in their communities. By doing so, we can look forward to them playing a more active role in making their community and country a better place to live, work and play. For example, complaints over potholes, uncovered manholes or faulty traffic lights in their community can be uploaded and reported to the relevant authorities for action. Vandalism of recreation facilities too can be reported and lots more. In this way, the communities can help the government to solve their grouses and complaints expeditiously.

Inter-agency and intra-agency collaboration and coordination across the government is also necessary for an efficient and effective government. Some of the examples are in the preparation of the national budget, Malaysia Development Plans or in the case of natural disasters such as epidemics, floods and other disasters that require the collaboration and cooperation of a number of agencies. These can be facilitated by the use of appropriate social network tools.

Malaysia’s ICT landscape is enriched with many service channels together with numerous communications and ICT services. For example, our mobile penetration for the country has grown from 76 per cent in 2009 to 128.7 per cent in 2012. The high rate of mobile penetration provides a great opportunity for government to deliver its services to the public.

Q: What challenges do you foresee the government will have in terms of connecting with ordinary Malaysians?

A: As with any technology, it is a double-edged sword. We seek the optimal use of social media in the government. To do this, we need to provide the “Do’s and the Don’ts” to civil servants in the use of media social tools. In this regard, guidelines and tips will be provided on the management of official social media sites such as in the timeliness, manner and content of response. It also necessitates that comprehensive change programmes be put into place and implemented not only at the government agency’s level but also at the national level. We would like all Malaysians to be included in our journey to be more digital and savvy. A challenge we face is in bridging the digital divide in the country between the rural areas with 19.8 per cent penetration and urban areas with 82.2 per cent, to increase the national broadband penetration rate that currently stands at 66.8 per cent.

As mentioned earlier, social media networks open up new possibilities and opportunities for the government to stay, if not become more relevant to the people, target groups and communities it serves. Hence, the government must demonstrate creativity, innovativeness and a readiness to integrate this new platform into its communication and engagement strategies. To reap the benefits of social media, it is apparent that change management plans have to be put in place to inculcate the culture and good practice of using social media in the public sector.

Ali Hamsa2Q: The National Transformation Agenda entails reform and change in many aspects of the Malaysian economy and, of course, the government and the way it is run and delivers its services. How will the Malaysian government stay relevant in the face of this agenda? What is the ideal role of government, in your opinion, in a middle-income country that is striving for developed country status?

A: Vision 2020 has charted out the future course of our nation: To achieve a developed country status in our own mould; The New economic model which entails a high-income advanced nation with inclusiveness and sustainability as key thrusts by 2020; and growth based more on domestic economic activities rather than international exports.

The 2008 financial crisis was a major challenge to achieving Malaysia’s vision. Something needed to be done quickly to remedy the situation and to get us out of the middle income trap. The Malaysian government introduced the National Transformation Agenda (NTA) in 2010 to accelerate our efforts that encompass the political, economic and government spheres. The NTA is premised upon six transformation programmes covering the economic, government, political, social, community and digital agenda. These six areas are inter-related and vital towards achieving developed nation status vis-à-vis societal maturity. The NTA is part of the government development agenda, which translates policies into projects. It is part and parcel of government planning such as the five-year Malaysia Plan, New Economic Model etc.

The Malaysian government, as other governments, is faced with operating in a rapidly evolving global environment. Increasing demands and expectations for better, faster and more affordable public services coupled with fiscal sustainability and increasing complexities are the norms facing governments of the day. Citizens today have high expectations of service delivery levels in terms of quality, quicker response and more personalised services, due to the advancement in ICT. With an increasing number of people using social networking in their personal lives, the government must take advantage and utilise this medium to engage and communicate with the people especially the younger generation. The government will continuously improve its delivery system where public needs have the highest priority in line with our motto of “People First, Performance Now”. A “Whole-of-Government” approach is being adopted where a higher level of inter-agency collaboration and cooperation is undertaken to ensure cross-cutting issues are addressed seamlessly across portfolio boundaries.

Based on our experience, an ideal government should have the following characteristics:

* Innovative – new way of providing citizen-centric services, for example the Urban Transformation Centres (UTCs) and Rural Transformation Centers (RTCs);

* Agile – responsive to changing conditions and citizen expectations;

* Co-creation and co-production – develop policies and design services that respond to the individual needs and are relevant to their circumstances. Co-creation and co-production are emerging concepts that describe sustained collaboration between government agencies, NGO’s, communities and individual citizens. This requires a major shift in the culture and operation of government agencies;

* Transparency and accountability – accommodating citizens’ right to know.

Attracting, nurturing and retaining talent will be a top priority for the government, with the focus on attracting high calibre young talent, leveraging the best practices of agencies within the economy, and designing flexible schemes which matches placement with qualifications and preference.

The government will exercise prudent spending to ensure fiscal sustainability while not compromising citizen expectations. This means doing more for less, that is, by significantly improving productivity to deliver better outcomes. An outcome-based approach is being practised within the planning, resource allocation, monitoring and evaluation processes. The government will also assume the role of a catalytic facilitator through the design of effective policies and regulations. This is to create an enabling environment for the private sector to leverage its potential so that it becomes a more significant engine of growth for the economy. In tandem with this, the participation of the private sector via public-private partnerships, including private funding initiatives, will be enhanced in the delivery of public services.

Via the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the government seeks to encourage the private sector to drive economic growth whilst enabling public investments to stay focused on catalytic projects. By 2020, it is hoped that private investments would make up to more than 90 per cent of total investments in the country. Large, public sector-driven catalytic projects would include those such as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and River of Life (ROL), among others. Through this catalytic approach, the ETP is aimed at impacting the entire Malaysian economy and not just the Entry Point Projects (EPPs) identified under the NKEAs. The investment flows into these NKEAs will result in wider spill-over effects to other economic sectors.

Under the ETP, one of the Strategic Reform Initiatives focuses on Reducing Government’s Role in Business (GRiB) which aims to rationalise the government’s role in business to achieve three main goals: to avoid crowding out the private sector, increase the liquidity of the capital markets and improve the government’s fiscal position. Towards achieving these goals, the government will clearly establish its role in business, develop a divestment plan for government-linked investment companies (GLICs) and establish governance guidelines for government/ministry and state-owned companies. The government will also gradually evolve its role in business from being an investor to becoming a facilitator by co-investing with the private sector in projects that will boost GNI, focussing in businesses directly related to national security, such as defence and food security, limiting investments to businesses that involve large capital investments, require long gestation periods and participating in national infrastructure projects such as renewable energy and public transport systems. The private sector will take the lead role in terms of making investment and employment decisions. The projects and opportunities that are identified in the ETP have been co-created by the public and private sectors. Importantly, most of the projects and opportunities identified will be mainly funded from private sources. As such, the government’s role will be that of an active facilitator of the private sector through policy support and provision of resources, rather than the principal driver, as it has been in the past.

Ali Hamsa1Q: Please provide a brief outline of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP). What steps have you taken to ensure the Malaysian government is more “efficient, dynamic, competitive and market driven”? What flaws have you noticed in the government system that you have worked to improve?

A: The GTP is an ambitious, broad-based change programme to fundamentally transform the government into an efficient and public-centered institution. Under the GTP, 7 National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) were identified, together with relevant Ministerial Key Results Areas (MKRAs). From this, quantifiable National Key Performance Indicators (NKPIs) i.e. the targets of each NKRA, were introduced to help gauge the success of each individual initiative thereby providing real and measurable standards. Some of the challenges faced in the transformation of the civil service and the government system, is the tendency to work in silos. Therefore, the Public Service Delivery (PSD) Strategic Reform Initiative (SRI) has two objectives:

1) to accelerate the government’s efforts in becoming more efficient and facilitative in both business and public-related services; and

2) to transform the country’s 1.4 million civil servants into a motivated, high-performing workforce.

Efforts are on-going to ensure continuous improvement of governance, and to promote efficiency. Within the PSD SRI, feedback and engagement is sought from all stakeholders so that any initiatives or projects are executed to meet their expectations. Some of the key thrusts of transformation that are being looked at currently are getting each ministry to come up with transformation initiatives that benefit the citizens, the business community and civil servants; providing the necessary skills and guidance for the ministries to lead the initiatives by helping them break down the silos and working cohesively with other ministries and agencies to resolve any issues; benchmarking against best practices in other countries; and effective implementation through the best cohesive project governance.

Two agencies are currently undertaking the transformation process i.e. the Public Services Department (PSD) and the Ministry of Finance. The PSD is implementing five core strategies for successful transformation of public service into a high-performing, credible, dynamic and people-oriented sector, namely rejuvenation, re-engineering, institutionalisation, inclusiveness and common values. The first phase of the transformation initiative has seen the PSD reduce its staff by 387 in the last three months. The National Transformation Programme is also complemented by the National Blue Ocean Strategy, which is the brain child of Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak. Introduced in 2009, NBOS is Malaysia’s made-to-order version, utilising its concepts and tailoring it to fit the country’s needs. The over-arching aim would be that Malaysia becomes a high-income, happy and low tax country. The spirit behind NBOS is summed up succinctly in six words: Low cost, high impact, rapid execution. NBOS has broken down the “silo mentality” that is often said to exist within and between government agencies. NBOS also encourages active engagement with the private sector and civil society, hence providing a more holistic approach when formulating policies or drawing up programmes for the people. To date, 52 initiatives involving more than 80 government agencies have been introduced under the ambit of NBOS, benefiting different segments of the people and touching their lives at a more personal level.

Q: In your interview that you gave with our contributor, Ms. Firoz Abdul Hamid, you spoke about the smart partnerships that need to be developed between the media and business. How would you describe the government of Malaysia’s relationship with the media?

A: The government and the media have a good, symbiotic relationship built on years of trust, understanding and respect. The media is the bridge linking the government with the people, and looks upon the media to report news justly and fairly, and exercise the freedom of speech responsibly. The government has always believed in establishing a good relationship with the media fraternity, and this has not waned. Government agencies engage the media regularly, either in a formal setting to disseminate information about government initiatives, policies and programmes, or in informal events as a way to build ties and strengthen relations. I myself hosted a dinner with the media fraternity last year as a means to get-together informally, and will host yet another event again this year.

Q: Corruption is prevalent in every government in every country in the world bar none. However, in some countries, this scourge is more widespread. The recent Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) Survey 2013 suggested that the general Malaysian public is keen on fighting corruption, but the majority perceive the government to be falling in this task with public officials/civil servants viewed as one of the bigger culprits. Is this perception justified? How can you change this view?

A: As it has been rightly mentioned, the keyword used here is perception. A big part of the discussion and debate on corruption is a matter of perception versus reality. These are two very different concepts. A number of different initiatives were implemented under the Anti-Corruption NKRA to stem corruption. Malaysia will intensify efforts and continue to push for improvements across the social, political and business arenas. There have been a number of different initiatives that have been implemented under this NKRA. One of the most significant initiatives, that serve to combat corruption in both the public and private sectors, is the introduction of the Whistleblower Protection Act in 2010 to ensure that people best positioned to report corrupt practices would receive the proper support and protection. Amendments will be made to the Societies Act of 1966 with the aim of preventing internal leakage of funds within political parties which means the amendments are that all donations must be channelled to the party, and not individuals and that all donations received must be properly receipted and audited. As of this year, it is also a requirement for the Special Officers to the Ministers to declare their assets to their respective Minister as well as to the Chief Secretary.

The Corporate Integrity Pledge was launched in 2011 to deal with corruption in the private sector. This initiative will be further strengthened with the amendment of the MACC Act to include a provision on Corporate Liability. This will ensure that corporations take responsibility for the corrupt acts conducted by the employees on behalf of the company. The appointment of a Minister of Governance and Integrity in the cabinet line-up in May 2013, clearly reflects YAB Prime Minister’s resolve towards fighting corruption.

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