PMO halts ministers’ friendly ‘moves’


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 10 Jul 2018

PETALING JAYA: Several ministers apparently did not get the memo on the ongoing efforts to keep government lean and to cut expenditure.

 

These ministers have tried to “reward” their political supporters by giving them jobs although the arrangements do not comply with the rules for employing government officers.

However, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has stepped in to halt these “moves”.

It is understood that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had issued a circular to the offices of all ministers and deputy ministers as a reminder that the salaries of people appointed by ministers and deputy ministers must be in keeping with a Public Service Depart­ment (PSD) circular that came out in 2012.

The PMO circular is meant to stop the practice of granting salaries and hiring officers beyond what is allowed in the rules, a government source told The Star.

It is understood that a minister had informed his ministry’s higher-ups that he wanted to appoint at least six special officers.

“He told the officials that his supporters needed to be rewarded after the general election. He also said if the ministry could not pay the salaries of these special officers, agencies under the ministry could do so. However, he was advised against doing so as it went against the regulations,” said another government source.

In another example, a minister instructed a government-linked company (GLC) to pay the salary of his special assistant.

The plan was aborted after the PMO had found out about it.

There is also the case of a man who called up a ministry official, claiming that he will come in as the special officer to the minister, who was just sworn in last Monday. The caller also said he would bring in several other people to serve as special officers too.

“It is not the minister that I worry about; it is the people he appoints. I am not sure where the ministry is getting the money to pay them but surely the agencies under the ministry will be asked to do so,” said an official.

When told of the latest episode, a PMO officer described it as “nonsense” and “ridiculous”.

“We do not want to return to the days of the previous administration, with the bloated staff and salaries paid by the agencies or GLCs.

“The ministers must be made aware that they are limited to the numbers stated in the circular,” said a PMO official.

The PMO circular reminded the ministry heads of the 2012 PSD circular on posts and service matters relating to the offices of the ministers and deputy ministers.

The PSD circular states that a minister can only hire a special functions officer, a principal private secretary and a press secretary, apart from support staff.

A Grade 54 officer can earn a maximum of about RM10,000 a month, including allowances.

A deputy minister can have a principal private secretary, a private secretary and two persons as support staff.

However, following a Cabinet meeting on June 27, it is understood that the Prime Minister issued a circular which, among others, states that the Government has decided that a minister can have two special functions officers.

Soon after he was sworn in as Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir an­­noun­ced that the government would terminate the employment of 17,000 political appointees as part of its reform plans to reduce government expenditure.

“We find that there are too many contract officers. Some had been contracted to work because it was needed by the previous administration but some contracts were given for political reasons,” Dr Mahathir had said.

A PMO official admitted that over the last two administrations, the civil service has become too “subservient” to the demands of politicians holding public office.

“The civil service has been brought to its knees, so much so that the officials cannot say no.”

Asked if a minister’s appointment of several special officers can be seen as abuse of power, the officer admitted it was “dicey”.

“It is not abuse of power because salary is something that can be negotiated. People do not want to come in unless given competitive salaries,” said the officer.

“This is contract work. If the minister can get an officer within the ministry, it will be good. But to an outsider, the salary of a Grade M54 officer is not attractive enough.”

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