29 Jun 2009


The Sun
by Maria J. Dass

PETALING JAYA (June 28): Civil servants are given the leeway to take on second jobs and delve in businesses to supplement their income but it must not be in conflict with their government jobs.
"The second jobs must also be done after office hours and not affect their productivity in government service," Public Service Department director-general Tan Sri Ismail Adam told theSun today.
Ismail was responding to a Bernama report quoting Cuepacs as calling for leniency when dealing with civil servants who are in debt and are taking on extra jobs to top up their income.
Cuepacs secretary-general Ahmad Shah Mohd Zin said about 40% of the country’s 1.2 million civil servants are in debt and have take-home salaries less than 40% of their monthly income.
Ismail said: "Those who want to take on additional jobs have to first get permission from their department heads. I do not know how the estimation that 40% of civil servants are in debt was reached but if this is true, it is a big number, and comes as a surprise especially since support staff, especially those living in the city had received good increments over the last two years."
He said civil servants’ spending and lifestyle should commensurate with their earnings.
Giving examples of conflict of interest with respect to the second source of income, he said policemen working with security companies and teachers setting up tuition centres can be construed as conflict of interest and thus subject to disciplinary action.
In the Bernama report, Ahmad Shah said heads of ministries and departments should be humane in dealing with civil servants who are in debt as this group of workers needed "special attention as they may be vulnerable to corruption and moonlighting".
Almost 450,000 of the civil servants are in debt and their take-home salary is less than 40% of their monthly pay, he said, adding that the bulk of their salaries is deducted at source as payment for various loans – housing, cars, renovations, education and hospitalisation.
Cuepacs’ stand is that these officers need to be "rehabilitated" before any disciplinary action is taken against them.
"What is happening now is that the heads of department usually find the easy way out by taking disciplinary action, like stopping increments, denying promotions and suspension from duty, thus aggravating the situation."
Ahmad Shah said hundreds of civil servants are moonlighting as taxi drivers, petty traders, direct sales agents and watchmen to make ends meet.
Although the government is aware of the situation and has taken some positive steps like giving them official permission to work part-time, it is not enough, he said.
"The high cost of living, especially in the urban areas, is eating into their income, thus causing them to be constantly in debt," he said.
Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) secretary-general Muhammad Shaani Abdullah agreed that the high cost of living is one factor contributing to the debts of civil servants.
"It is a myth that civil servants are spendthrifts and don’t know how to manage money. The truth is that civil servants’ salaries have not kept in tandem with the increase in the cost of living," he said.
Muhammad said if the government is unable to increase salaries, it can assist these civil servants in many other ways to cope with the rising cost of living.
Some of the areas where it can help are to improve the public transportation system to make it affordable and reliable, provide better medical facilities and more scholarships, open special cooperatives, offer soft loans for housing and other needs and give discounts on utilities.

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