The rot in the civil service began during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first stint as prime minister and it has since become a “bloated and increasingly corrupt” entity, a former diplomat said.
In his new book, Paradise Lost: Mahathir & The End of Hope, Dennis Ignatius claimed the former prime minister disdained the idea of independent-minded officials who provided apolitical service.
He alleged that Mahathir craved a more subservient bureaucracy that was “ready to do his bidding” and those who got in his way were removed.
Blind loyalty, he noted, became the most important requirement for career advancement.
Ignatius said Mahathir’s successors continued with such a policy.
“The cumulative result is plain to see – a bloated and increasingly corrupt civil service that has lost its professionalism and competence.
“Instead of servicing the nation, the nation now exists to service the civil service,” he wrote.
Politicians from Pakatan Harapan, he went on to say, were fully aware of the rot in the civil service and urgency for reform but it seemed they had neither the will nor wisdom to make changes.
Ignatius said reforming the bureaucracy had become an “almost impossible endeavour”.
For one, the government had become the employer of last resort for those unable to compete for jobs in the private sector.
“Without the civil service to absorb them, the government would face explosive levels of discontent,” he said.
Like it or not, reducing the size of the bureaucracy was “not an option”.
Secondly, he said, politicians were hesitant about confronting the bureaucracy as it represented an important vote bank.
“Placating the bureaucracy no matter how incompetent or corrupt it might be is simply a political imperative.”
Ignatius’s book, which will be launched on Sept 9, is available for pre-order. It retails for RM60.