Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Haji Hassan with Tan Sri Nik Mohd Nik Yaacob
“Governments are to serve the needs of the public. Governance in government is to ensure those needs are served efficiently, effectively and fairly by way of clear processes and structures.”
This meaning of governance was defined by Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Haji Hassan, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia during his keynote address at the Round Table Discussion on the Code of Public Governance, jointly organised by the National Council of Professors and Perdana Leadership Foundation on 17th February 2011 in Putrajaya. The half-day programme was organised to gather ideas from the academic sector civil society on the necessity of a Code of Public Governance for the country’s more than 1 million civil servants.
Professor Dr. Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmood
The Round Table started with a welcoming speech by the Head, Cluster of Governance, Law and Public Management of the Majlis Profesor Negara, Professor Dr. Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmood who briefly narrated the background of the National Council of Professors which was established on 1st April 2010.
More than 50 participants comprising of academicians, post-graduate students, members of NGOs and the media listened to the keynote address by Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Haji Hassan, themed, “Not For A few Good Men: The System is Ours”, who defined the concept of ‘the system’ thus:
“Man is a product of his environment, as is an environment a product of society. The bearer of culture is man and the bearer of civilisation is society. It is then not wrong to conclude that our rights and wrongs, acceptance and reprieve as individuals a society maketh what we deem ‘The System’.”
Tan Sri Sidek agreed that there should be a public governance but emphasised throughout his speech that “The System” was not the responsibility of only a few, or even of the government in power, but is the collective responsibility of the nation.
Following the keynote address was a panel discussion comprising of panelists Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi, Professor of Law at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) and Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Haji Megat Najmuddin bin Datuk Seri Dr. Haji Megat Khas, the President of the Malaysian Institute for Corporate Governance (MICG).
Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi
Professor Shad began his topic, “The Legal Framework for Public Accountability”, by defining accountability as, “Accountability means having to answer for, or render account of, the way in which one carries out one’s official tasks. The essence of accountability is discharging one’s responsibility at all time in accordance with established ethical norms, values and laws, and being willing to submit oneself to public scrutiny of every aspect of one’s conduct. Good governance is a journey and not a destination and no country has ever reaches it”. He later opined that enforcing accountability in the public sector is a challenge because “no one is willing to submit to public scrutiny” but governance is necessary to prevent “untrammelled exercise of power”.
Professor Shad also highlighted some other interesting points, among them the issue of human rights which he stressed was now gaining universal acceptance. Fundamental human rights, he said, are not endowed or ‘given’ by the government but are the rights that every human being is born with. A code of public governance hence should ensure that the rights of the rakyat are protected and that the government is not infringing on individual rights and freedoms in the exercise of its power.
Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Haji Megat Najmuddin bin Datuk Seri Dr. Haji Megat Khas
The second speaker, Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin spoke on, “The Transformability of the Culture of Corporate Governance in the Public Sector”. He believed that the task to emulate corporate governance culture into the public sector is not an easy task. “Decision makers in the government need to be guided by ideal behaviours and values because people’s perceptions have changed and higher standards of accountability are demanded…but cultural transformation to greater governance is daunting and a long-drawn process.”
During group discussion session
Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin later chaired a group discussion session, Industries Views on the Needs for Code of Public Governance, while the country’s Auditor-General, Tan Sri Dato’ Setia Haji Ambrin Buang chaired the discussion on, Justification for Having the Code of Public Governance; Political scientist and Nanyang Technology University Senior Fellow Dr. Farish Ahmad-Noor chaired the group discussion on Rakyat’s Perception on Governance in the Public Service, and the Deputy Director-General (Operations) of the Public Service Department Dato’ Dr. Ismail Alias managed the discussion on The Effectiveness of General Order in Ensuring Good Governance in the Public Sector.
The discussion leaders convened again in a panel chaired by Professor Hazman Shah Abdullah, the Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr. Teh Hong Piow Resident Fellow for Perdana Leadership Foundation and Head of UiTM’s Institute of Quality and Knowledge Advancement (InQKA) to summarise issues that were highlighted during the Round table discussions.
(from left to right) - Dato’ Dr. Ismail Alias, Tan Sri Dato’ Setia Haji Ambrin Buang, Professor Hazman Shah Abdullah, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Haji Megat Najmuddin bin Datuk Seri Dr. Haji Megat Khas and Dr. Farish Ahmad-Noor
The first speaker, Dato’ Dr. Ismail Alias, the Deputy Director-General (Operation), Public Service Department summed up that using the General Order (GO) had helped government officers to execute their jobs accordingly and the ‘GO’ culture had also encouraged professionalism in the public sector. Tan Sri Dato’ Setia Haji Ambrin Buang, the Auditor General of Malaysia, commented that the government was serious about Public Governance but that more discussions on the establishment of a nationwide code need to take place. Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin then pointed out that any Code needs to be adopted by all state governments and stressed that Malaysia’s rewards and punishment system is “awry” in that “the crooks are rewarded and good people are punished”. Dr. Farish Noor meanwhile believed that Malaysians’ lack of knowledge on the concept of ‘governance’ was the root problem and suggested that more education on the concept of governance needs to be done before discussions of a Code can take place.
The programme ended with panelists and participants agreeing that more discussions and forums should be held to debate further on the importance of establishing the code of governance in the public sector.
Click here to read Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi’s paper, entitled, “The Legal Framework for Public Accountability”