Don’t get fixed by Mr Fixits!IT has been almost three weeks since the prime minister announced his new cabinet line-up. Some new to their portfolios are on fact-finding visits and attending briefings by the civil servants. No one is groping in the dark anymore – at least that’s what we think or the ministers themselves think. Everyday, we see images of the "new" ministers visiting one or another agency or department under their purview.
Well, that’s the way to start – to know everything each ministry is supposed to do. Don’t forget the three new magic letters – KPI, or key performance indicators. They will be judged in six months, we have been told. So, can we, the rakyat, judge the performance of the people whose salaries come from our hard-earned money? No, the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) will do that, not the new minister, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon. In order for the ministers to give their best, they should be in the know. Facts and figures should be on their fingertips. At a drop of a hat, they should be able to rattle off answers to questions in Parliament, not get caught flat-footed by a supplementary question to which they haven’t a clue. But before they are asked, they should ask themselves this question: Am I, as the minister, being told what I should know or am I being told what the civil servants think I as the minister should know? It’s pertinent because there’s this misconception that civil servants administer the ministry while the minister is merely the policymaker. The intertwining of these functions has brought about colossal loss of money and embarrassment to people in high places. While the chief secretary to the government has told his officials that they should "stand up and tell the minister if he or she is doing the wrong thing", many have adopted the simple civil standard rule – saya yang menurut perintah. (If you Google this phrase, there are about 52,000 entries from Malaysian web pages.) Some are compelled to menurut perintah, lest they be sent to Siberia (perhaps Grik or Kuala Krai in the Malaysian context); others play ball by menurut-ing the perintah to be in the minister’s good books. The minority who stand up and say their piece, under normal circumstances, should be rewarded, but this is hardly the case. But back to the issue of what information the minister needs to achieve his targets. He has to know everything. Make no mistake. Some civil servants may want to keep the skeletons in the cupboard – only for the preview of a select few who feel that they will not reveal until asked. Even when asked, no need for the details – just a summary would suffice. Ask Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the former youth and sports minister. He did not know the extent of the commitments made by the ministry and the National Sports Council until he read bits and pieces in the newspapers. No one told him because the stock answer was: "You didn’t ask!"
The financial burden incurred by entering, in some instances, dubious deals and some which bring little or no benefit by one agency or the other is "classified" – an edict which some civil servants think they are entitled to use to suit their convenience. But perhaps, the new culture should be: "I have done nothing wrong; therefore, I have nothing to hide." But we will not see that even in our grandchildren’s generation. The civil servants must implement the policies which in most cases are as transparent as glass; the bigger fear is those with sharpened knives out to tear a hole in the coffers of the ministry or its agencies. Some have already eased themselves into roles as "confidants", in the process, playing the role of spin-doctor. They are willing to arrange photo opportunities for the minister and organise meetings with editors who most of the time are the spin-doctor’s coterie of friends. Above all, they have invested heavily in visuals and story boards complete with a media plan to "enhance the image of the minister". While the prime minister has expressed his displeasure of images of ministers being plastered on billboards, these spin-doctors have detailed plans on "subtle messages" and "soft-sell" advertising concepts. What does he get in return? A 15% commission on media bookings, advertising and perhaps millions in concept fees, art-work, production costs, etc. That adds up to quite a sum because at least one of them is known to have bought three luxury cars – in hard cash – in one working day! No editor or journalist worth his salt will turn down an invitation for a tête-à-tête with the minister upon a call from his press secretary, but these spin-doctors claim they have "influential friends" in "high places" and that he would do the bidding on the minister’s behalf. That perhaps explains why only a select few were invited for a dialogue with the new sports minister. Some even offer themselves as "personal trainers" and there is no dearth of people lining up to pay for the services and the travel costs of such so-called fitness experts. The list is endless. The middlemen, the image consultants, the publicity coordinator and the Mr Fixits have already made their rounds selling their ware and their services. There’s nothing they cannot arrange. And if ministers are not already aware, many of them have already been identified by the media and are being closely watched. Some may even go to the extent of paying for the minister’s medical bills or his maid’s air-ticket. So, at the end of it all, while the EPU may be evaluating the KPIs, the people will continue to monitor their conduct and those who are perceived as their cronies. You have been warned!

Why should you donate?
If you think this little editor is useful to you, then it's a good reason to do a donation.
Your gratitude and finance help will motivate us to continue Nurkimedia project development.
Donate now!