Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ex-senior officers pour scorn on Putrajaya’s reason for using highly paid consultants

BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA
NOVEMBER 14, 2013
The National Education Blueprint was apparently produced by an external consultant at a cost of RM20 million. - November 14, 2013.The National Education Blueprint was apparently produced by an external consultant at a cost of RM20 million. - November 14, 2013.If Putrajaya now needs consultants to craft policies, such as the National Education Blueprint, how did it manage to develop the country over the past 50 years without them? 
More specifically, why does the current Prime Minister need consultants when his predecessors did not need them and still managed to run and develop the country into becoming Southeast Asia’s second largest economy?
That was the response from former senior officers to the recent explanation from Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration that the government “lacks the capability” to do its own research.
Yesterday, Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen stated that between 2009 and 2013, the Najib administration had spent RM7.2 billion on private consulting firms.
This hiring of outside consultants instead of tapping the government’s own pool of senior officers, they claimed, reflected an unscrupulous agenda. 
This was revealed in a written answer by the Finance Ministry to him in Parliament.
The ministry had said the capabilities of government researchers are limited in terms of their competency and manpower, hence the need to engage external consultants.
"The government needs to appoint private consultancy firms so that the constraints of competency and human resources faced by government agencies will be resolved to ensure that projects and research are carried out according to plan,” the ministry had said.
Wong Chen said an average of RM4 million was spent daily, or RM125 million monthly, on private consultants.
"Why spend so much on private consultants when you have experts in the civil service?" He added that the amount spent on private consultants increased at an average of 13.5% a year.
"This is double Malaysia's annual GDP (Growth Domestic Product) growth rate."
He also said that the Prime Minister's Department alone had spent RM212.5 million on foreign consultants from 2008 to 2013.
"Just what kind of message is the Prime Minister sending out?"
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, a veteran officer who had served in the Transport Ministry as secretary general and as a deputy secretary general in the Finance Ministry, is baffled by the increased dependence on consultants.
Ramon said he was on numerous commissions in the Transport Ministry which were formed to study and craft policies for the commercial land, shipping and airline industries.
“When a ministry wants a study done, all you have to do is take a group of senior officers and form a commission.
“We used one or two experts from the World Bank and the Harvard advisory group but these were few and far between.”   
Ramlan Samiran, a former Johor Education Department director, wants to know what happened to all the government officers who went overseas to get their masters and doctorate degrees.
“If we sent our officers overseas for post graduate studies to upgrade them but don’t use their expertise when they return, what’s the point of sending them in the first place?”
Ramlan, who spent more than 30 years at the department, said there was a large pool of officers in the Education Ministry that was capable of performing research and crafting policy.
Ramlan cited the Education Development Master Plan (PIPP), which was crafted when Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was Education Minister, as an example of a policy roadmap that was done in-house by government officers.
He compared that to the Najib administration’s National Education Blueprint which was allegedly produced by an external consultant at a cost of RM20 million.
“Yet, even before we completed the implementation of the PIPP, Najib comes out with the Education Blueprint,” said Ramlan.
Though he is not totally against consultants, Ramon believes they should be hired judiciously and only for obscure fields in which the government has no expertise.
The scale at which the government relies on consultants now, Ramon said, opens the door for corruption.
“A famous saying about consultants is that they are so-called experts who come in, find out, write reports and get out before they are found out." - November 14, 2013.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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