PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has directed government departments to cut red tape and strengthen the civil service to fight corruption and deliver quality service to the rakyat.
The Prime Minister proposed that each ministry set up a task force to look at ways to reduce bureaucracy in all departments under them because inefficiency could breed corruption.
He also directed the re-engineering of all district offices and local councils to rid them of unwieldy bureaucratic procedures that could tempt people to commit bribery.
Abdullah said a special task force, to be headed by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman, would be formed.
He said no timeframe had been set for the task force to carry out its job, but hoped that it would be completed as soon as possible.
The improvement of the public service delivery system is very important. Certain measures must be introduced to cut red tape so that the people can get fast and quality service.
I have informed the Cabinet that I would be paying keen attention to frontline government departments that deal with people through counter services. I want them to be improved to ensure that the rakyat will get fast and reliable service, he told reporters after chairing his first Cabinet meeting as Prime Minister at Perdana Putra Complex here yesterday.
He said the task forces in the ministries must look at ways to cut red tape in departments so that the waiting period for all applications for government approvals like licences and permits could be reduced.
The long waiting periods can breed corruption as people who are impatient could very easily be tempted to offer bribes to speed things up, he said.
On the re-engineering of district offices and local councils, Abdullah said apart from weeding out corruption, a review was necessary because of their increasing workload and responsibilities.
We have identified district offices as being bogged down with too much work compared to what they were expected to do 20 or 30 years ago. Today, they are expected to play a major role in the development of the districts. The land offices are also much burdened compared to before, having to issue licences for all kinds of activities.
The same is also true of local councils, which are now involved in all kinds of urban and semi-urban development within their jurisdiction.
Although we need regulations, let us not be too preoccupied with enforcement, as equally important is that the Government, besides being a regulator, must also be able to help people get what they need, he added.
Abdullah said the re-engineering of district offices and local councils would help raise the effectiveness of other measures to combat corruption.
When pointed out that the highest number of graft cases was recorded among civil servants in the Home Ministry, Abdullah, who is also Home Minister, said:
Yes, we have been fighting this very hard. If we hadnt, the number would have been much higher than what we see today.
There are a lot of things that we have to do. I wont hide facts and will not sweep things under the carpet. We just need to work harder to tackle this problem.
Abdullah also announced the proposal to set up the Institute for Public Ethics to promote good governance in both the public and private sectors and the formulation of a National Integrity Plan that would go hand in hand with the setting up of the institute.
The institute, he said, would provide a platform for greater interaction and discussion between the public and private sectors to promote accountability, transparency and efficiency in both sectors.