Are our ministers so adept at micromanaging?

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Ministers should make a difference by managing policies, instead of micromanaging issues, says WH Cheng.

We all understand that our nation today is ruled by a coalition of political parties different from Barisan Nasional.

Barisan Nasional was defeated in the 9 May 2018 general election by the then opposition Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition. Pakatan Harapan is now on the government bench while Barisan Nasional is on the opposition bench.

All cabinet ministers appointed to their portfolios are new to their respective ministries and areas of responsibility. Of course they need to work hard to understand the situation and policies under their respective ministries.

A number of changes have taken effect; many are still underway. Some issues may be still sensitive to tackle while others need to be examined in a larger context or they have aspects that may possibly affect some other policies in place.

So there are many questions today about how these new ministers are going down to the ground to tackle issues one by one, some to the extent of even petty matters or the “they-should-not-even-be-doing-it” kind of issues.

Some have welcomed these ministers’ direct involvement in these issues. They applaud such moves as they think it shows a “grassroots” kind of leader.

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For others, including many of us, some of these new ministers seems to be overly involved in these issues. They seem to be micromanaging their respective ministries, departments and agencies as if there is nobody else who can go down to the ground other than themselves. Are these ministers moving in a correct way? Some of these ministers are even making announcements about petty issues.

What about bigger, more important matters? These ministers should be focusing on policymaking instead of carrying out those day-to-day responsibilities, which could be delegated to their respective ministries’ secretary-generals, director-generals, divisional directors, divisional secretaries, department heads and so on. If these ministers feel that some matters require ministerial involvement, these can be delegated to deputy ministers.

Ministers should be effective policymakers in government. Their primary responsibilities are to ensure that policies are effectively reviewed, implemented and checked and that possible corrective action is taken should any hiccups arise.

Yes, it is good to have ministers going to the ground by themselves to understand the situation. But if they are doing that almost everyday and on almost every issue, would they have sufficient time to look into policies and improve them?

We definitely want this new government to come up with better policies, erase the old and ineffective ones and make more changes and reforms so that the people can feel the difference compared with the poor implementation of policies under the previous government.

That is why ministers’ attendance in parliamentary sittings is crucial so that policies can be tabled, scrutinised, debated, amended, passed and implemented. This is the way it should work.

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What is the use if there are no ministers present during parliamentary sittings. Questions will not be answered. Ineffective responses to questions on policies will reflect badly on the government of the da. The administration might even be seen as “directionless” if there are no answers or no clear understanding of certain issues.

So, ministers, you are all already nine months on the government bench. It is time to swiftly see yourselves in the role of policymakers rather than micro-managers.

Yes, the previous BN government did produce a lots of bad apples within the civil service establishment. Convey the message to all these heads of divisions, departments and agencies that heads will roll if there is any attempt at sabotage, ineffective implementation or obstacle preventing new policies from being implemented.

Make a difference; manage the policies – don’t micromanage issues.

Source: g-socialaffairs.blogspot.com

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WH Cheng, an Aliran member, is director of Inter-Research And Studies (IRAS), a Penang-based mini-research outfit and pressure group.

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