There were three words said by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam when the monarch delivered his titah to senior government officials in the conference room of the Public Service Commission during a working visit to the Public Service Department on April 25, 2012. I consider these as words of wisdom.
In the titah, His Majesty called on the Public Service Department to review the requirement for all officers in the B2EB3 and above salary scales to pass the examinations on the Financial Regulations and the General Orders (better known as 'FRGO') before they can be considered for promotion. A mention on this issue was made by His Majesty in the JPM Circular No 13/2009.
The actual wordings of the No 13/2009 circular in relation to the FRGO examination, as stated in the third paragraph, were: "Keperluan lulus peperiksaan ini adalah dijadikan syarat seseorang itu layak untuk ditetapkan dalam jawatannya atau dinaikkan pangkat ke jawatan seterusnya."
In other words, what this paragraph means is that should officers fail the FRGO examinations, they would not be confirmed in their positions (if they are under probation) nor gain promotion to a subsequent position (a position that is senior to their current post).
This has become a hot topic.
While many parties have deliberated on this subject, many failed to mention the three words that were said by His Majesty. In fact, they were the last three words that the monarch made in his titah - "Cuba-cubalah fikirkannya". The first word, 'cuba', the second, 'cubalah', and the third, 'fikirkannya'. A simple direct translation of the three words would be: "Try to think about it".
But would there be any concrete and useful result if those concerned were just asked "to think about it?"
I am of the view that these three words need to be considered as a whole in light of the compassionate way His Majesty delivered his titah, and in light of the fact that these are Malay words that sometimes have meanings beyond what is on the surface.
My view is that His Majesty was not directing the requirement for passing the FRGO examinations be removed. Rather, His Majesty was telling those concerned, to come up, after deliberations on the subject (the more appropriate translations for "fikirkannya") with an answer whether to retain or to dispense with that requirement. The deliberations may need to be held more than once (cuba-cubalah) in order that the solution is arrived at.
Bearing in mind that His Majesty had said earlier in his titah, "... dari segiapakah ia sesuai dan kalau tidak atau kurang sesuai dari segiapa pula?" (which according to me is translated as "... in what aspect it is suitable and if it is not suitable or less suitable, in what aspect?"), it is clear that His Majesty was asking the department and those concerned to weigh the pros and cons of the requirement of passing the FRGO examinations, and to come up with a solution that will be just to all including those officers who felt there is no need for them to pass the examinations on the ground of the nature of their duties but also to the need of the administration to have officers who are conversant on the subject.
This is an important issue to be deliberated even to those outside the government service, because the quality of service of the government administration depends on the administration having quality officers. If officers are not qualified to hold their posts, then the quality of service to the public will be very much wanting.
One may argue that doctors need not pass the FRGO examinations due the nature of their job in attending to their patients ie no financial matters and no administrative work. True. But what if a doctor is to be promoted to become the Director General of the Medical Services who no longer attends to the sick but has to administer a department with all the staff within it and be responsible for its finance? Shouldn't he need to be conversant on administrative and financial matters? Of course he must be! And this is why he needs to pass the FRGO exams!
It may be said that it is not fair to the doctor as his scheme of service does not require him to pass the FRGO exam. But he is going to a different scheme of service in which knowledge on the two subjects are necessary.
A way to determine the quality of officers is by determining through an examination of their knowledge on subjects such as the FRGO. The question for the Public Service Department is should that requirement be the only condition for promotion or for an officer to be confirmed in his post?
Let me deliberate. It is to be noted that no sooner had the titah been delivered, a local daily immediately jumped ahead of the pack by interviewing two government officers to give their opinion on the hot topic and print those opinions in the paper which hit the streets the following morning. One of those interviewed, a lady, was reported to have lamented that many officers who deserve promotions, especially those that have much to offer in leadership skills, have been denied the opportunity based on "this" criteria.
The question here is what is the criteria for promotion she was talking about? She was reported to have said earlier that the FRGO should not be a determining factor in promoting officers. That would mean that there are other determining factors. But she didn't mention these other factors.
But if there are a number of criteria for promotion and passing the examination is just one of the criteria, shouldn't that be okay? Shouldn't there be a passing mark? After all, to get one's HND or BSc, one need not answer correctly all the questions as long as one obtained the required minimum marks.
In this aspect, I support the idea of officers undergoing a course, let me name it as "Senior Officers Administrative Course", in which, the FRGO besides other relevant subjects, are taught.
At the end of the course, officers will still sit for an examination or a test which will determine whether the officers will or will not receive their certificates. The only difference here is that they need not pass the FRGO subjects as long as, on the whole, they obtained the passing mark or more, meaning the high marks obtained from other subjects will compensate the low marks on FRGO. So, taking up this course and passing its examination can become the criteria for confirmation of an officer's position, or for promotion.
What other subjects beside FRGO that ought to be included in the Senior Officers Administrative Course?
(1) MIB - to ensure officers carry out their duties in line with the MIB philosophy;
(2) Patriotism and nationalism - to invoke the spirit of the love for the nation;
(3) Integrity - to ensure officers are exemplary officers; and,
(4) Public Relation - to understand the importance of public relation as a tool to enhance peace and prosperity of the nation.
In fact this course should be viewed as part of human resources development for all officers, after all the reason for requiring officers to pass the FRGO examinations is stated under paragraph 2 of the Circular No 13/2009 as follows; "Ini adalah bagi memastikan peraturan-peraturan berkenaan diketahui, difahami dan dipatuhi oleh semua pegawai demi untuk menjaga integrity dan meningkatkan kecekapan Perkhidmatan Awam."
Therefore it should be the duty of heads of department to forward to the Public Service Department their list of officers who need to take up the course.
The question is who should conduct such a course? I believe the appropriate government agency to do this is the Public Service Institute which has the facilities and experience in conducting courses.
The other officer who was interviewed, a male, was reported to have said he supported the idea of a course instead of an exam.
But how could it be known an officer is knowledgeable on the subject if he is not tested or goes through an examination?
He further argued that giving heavy penalties for minor mistakes are also arbitrary and unjustified.
What does this mean? Is he saying that not passing the FRGO is a minor mistake and imposing the condition of passing the FRGO examinations before the officer can be confirmed in his post or be promoted a heavy penalty?
My view is that the FRGO is the heart of the administrative service of the government! If an officer is not conversant with the FRGO, it would be difficult for him to administer a department or ministry: He therefore should not become a head of department.
Should an officer who has no inkling of what a simple thing like "EB" in the salary scale B2EB3 is, much less knowing the processes in relation to the "EB", be made a head of department? How can he purchase something for his department if he does not know tender procedures?
If there is a need to promote an officer who is highly skilled in a specific area, say on ITC, for his excellent performance in that area of work, but has not passed the FRGO examinations and the only vacant position is the post of head of that department, the best option would be to create a new senior post for him. To be able to create a new post, he needs to understand "virement".
It would be easy for the head of department to delegate his work to another officer but he still needs to know the subject simply because he must do "check and balance" on the officer's work. After all, the head of department is accountable even if the work had been delegated to another officer.
I wonder how much those two officers interviewed had studied the GO. Had they did, they would know the GO provides provisions on promotions and on penalties for offences. They would know the criteria for promotions of officers as provided for under Regulation 36 of Part B - Kenaikan-Kenaikan Pangkat dan Peraturan-Peraturan Pegawai-Pegawai Kerajaan (Lantikan-Lantikan dan Kenaikan-Kenaikan Pangkat) as follows:
1. Official qualification (whether the officer has the required qualification needed to hold the post. For example, the required degree, diploma or certificate);
2. Experience (what experience the officer has on the job); and,
3. Merit (is he more deserving to be promoted due to his performance when compared with other officers who are also under consideration).
These are the official criteria for promotion. There is no mention of having to pass the FRGO examinations. So where does the requirement for passing the FRGO examinations as provided by the 13/2009 Circular fits-in in these three criteria?
Bearing in mind the two regulations - (1) Peraturan-Peraturan Pegawai-Pegawai Kerajaan (Lantikan-Lantikan dan Kenaikan Pangkat) and (2) Peraturan-Peraturan Pegawai-Pegawai Kerajaan (Kelakuan dan Tatertib) - are regulations made under the Public Service Commission Act, it is something to be deliberated whether a circular has the power to amend the provision of a regulation. In other words is the requirement for passing the FRGO under 13/2009 Circular, valid if the provisions of Regulation 36 have not been amended?
I believe the requirement for passing the FRGO examinations should be clearly spelled out in the scheme of service of each post in the B2EB3 and above salary scales. By this, all officers who aspire to be promoted to that position would know in advance whether or not they are required to pass the examinations.
What ought to be deliberated also is that Regulation 18(a) of the Public Servants (Appointment and Promotions) Regulations makes a reference to examination in schemes of service. It implies that if an examination is required to be taken by the job holder, such requirement must be stated in the respective scheme of service.
This would require the Public Service Department to identify posts that require the holders to pass the FRGO examinations. This means that they will need to undergo the Senior Officers Administrative Course and the related examinations. Would that be a fair proposition?--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin