But, who are they?
Are they truly the creme de la creme of the Malaysian civil servants?
Let us find out.
The Malaysian Administrative and Diplomatic Service (in the national language the Perkhidmatan Tadbir dan Diplomatik – PTD), which replaced the Malayan Civil Service (M.C.S), is often referred to as the premier service. It is a small service comprising 3,672 officers, who occupy select senior administrative posts reserved for them in the government, such as Secretaries-General, important Heads of Departments, some State Secretaries and District Officers, as well as Ambassadors and High Commissioners. Traditionally, the Chief Secretary to the Government is chosen from the senior ranks of the PTD. The Government has been persuaded to maintain this tradition, as well as holding the other posts mentioned for the PTD. The M.C.S and now its successor, the PTD, have always shown quality of work, productivity for performance, discipline and a high sense of accountability. It is also a tradition for the Chief Secretary to the Government to officiate its annual conference.
The Malaysian Administrative and Diplomatic Service has been the crème de la crème of the administration. It has many things in its favour – its performance has been good. If the occasional officer lacks in probity, he acts alone; this is in outstanding contrast to some countries where services of similar eminence have corruption institutionalised, and those at the top share the loot with the subordinates. In many ex-colonial British territories, the administrative services are still being castigated as the vestige of a colonial past, fit only for the administration of the status quo. In those countries the administrative service is being reviled as rule-ridden, generalist, and antediluvian. Even in countries like New Zealand and Australia, they have moved towards appointing chief executive officers, who are administrative heads of Ministries, on a performance contract basis. The career system of the Administrative and Diplomatic Service has worked well for Malaysia. What do Ministers expect of their senior civil servants, in particular the Secretary-General of the Director-General? First, the officers must be responsive to the directives of their Ministers; secondly, Ministers must be able to rely on them for candid, clear and rapid advice on policy proposals and plans; the Ministers look to them for the proper supervision of the department’s expenditure and financial management. The Administrative and Diplomatic Service officers must display professionalism of the highest order. The Service is now composed of relatively young officers, of whom in 1995, about 40 per cent were aged 40 and below, and 31 per cent aged between 41 and 45 years. Should the Malaysian Administrative and Diplomatic Service officers continue to be Secretary-General and to hold top administrative positions? The answer to the question is that they will continue to do so as long as the Government has the confidence, and the officers do the job properly, adhering to the great canons of the service – efficiency, mastery of the subjects which they deal with, impartiality towards the clients, judiciousness, fairness and fidelity to the facts.
Excerpts from the book The Chief Secretary to the Government, Malaysia by Tun Ahmad Sarji bin Abdul Hamid; MPH Publishing (1996)