Recently, with the change of premiership or leadership in Malaysia, the government had introduced in a big way the practice of KPI. The Prime Minister had announced to the public how he intends to vigorously evaluate the performance of his cabinet ministers and his administration through the use of the management inspired tool of KPI. The basic intention behind this move is of course to signal to the public his seriousness in ensuring good leadership for the nation, in line with the slogan of 1Malaysia ‘the people first, meritocracy emphasized’. This is all good of course, very laudable.
The idea of a prime minister vigorously evaluating his cabinet, or any leader evaluating members of his ruling clique under whatever political system, is of course natural, basic in politics and nothing new. This is because any leader worth his salt will know that the ineptitude or incompetency of his lieutenants could mean his very downfall, or at the very least undermine the credibility of his government or reign.
The Malaysian government has however introduced new elements in the use of KPI, all of its own. While the KPI has usually been a tool used internally in most institution to ensure efficient inner workings, with the view of ensuring group efficiency which could then be projected to the public, the Malaysian government had publicized the use of the KPI itself, presumably deeming it as a means of improving its image in the public’s eyes.
I find this move rather perplexing, raising questions why has it done so? Does the government think that the idea of leaders being evaluated is so alien to the Malaysian public that they need to be educated on this new life experience through publicizing the government’s use of the KPI? Or could it be because the practice of evaluating government leaders is something new for government leaders themselves, never properly instituted in their midst, hence the use of the KPI achieving the status of a great ‘reform’,’novelty’ among them, making them feel it is therefore of ‘public interest’ to be capitalized for political mileage? To be sure the Prime Minister had denied that the KPI publicity is merely rhetoric and that he is serious about implementing it. Still, this is beside the point why the government has chosen to publicise its use of KPI. The point is when what is for others a natural process, a matter of course, important but otherwise ordinary, is given the treatment of a ground breaking reform, it does suggest somewhat a recent discovery and novelty of practice.
And then there is the question of how is the public really involve in this KPI exercise? Presently, they are involved merely as spectators of the government’s use of the KPI. They are not really involved in the process of evaluating the leaders within this KPI exercise. This seems to remain the sole prerogative of the prime minister, which should be the case. But then why involve the public at all, albeit as spectators? If the argument is that the public is indeed involved because they are free to submit complaints, we would be missing the point. This facility or avenue has always been open and remains the public’s prerogative, even without the much publicized KPI.
Recently the public had really been cast as spectators to the government’s use of the KPI. Amid much fanfare, two ministerial posts had been created to oversee the government use of the KPI. The public is informed on the internal administrative details of the KPI. Few days ago, a cabinet minister had to correct the mass media in misreporting that only ten out of twenty government agencies had submitted their reports. The good minister had explained to the public that all twenty agencies had submitted their reports on time without exception, but the prime minister has had the opportunity to read only ten of them, given his busy schedule!
A few months ago, the two cabinet ministers had to explain to the public the line of reporting in the matter of KPI. To public inquiry as to which of the two cabinet ministers involved with KPI is to report to the other, one of them explained that he is solely in charge and all reporting are to him. All manner of administrative details are made public, but alas not the substance of the evaluation itself!
A few days ago, before flying off to Copenhagen, the Prime Minister announced to the public that he is satisfied with the performance of his government in the key performance areas. Indeed this is good news for us since the government, going by the prime minister, is in good working order. It raises some questions, however. Who is the KPI for? If it is just for the Prime Minister’s public exercise, isn’t there a conflict of interest here? Politically speaking it is a bit unrealistic for us to expect any Prime Minister to say he is unsatisfied with his own government? No Prime Minister would be willing to commit political suicide with the use of his very own KPI! Given this, perhaps it is best that the government keeps the KPI as a vital management tool for its internal use in upgrading the quality of governmental leadership.
I think it is fair for me to say that by and large the public is not too interested in the administrative details or the bureaucratic aspects of the goverment's use of the KPI. What the public is more interested in is not so much the mere use of the KPI but the actual honest and open evaluation of the leaders. And we can be sure too of one thing. With or without the KPI in its structured form as introduced and publicised by the government, the people will in their own way ‘KPI’ the government before casting their votes. I am sure in doing so they are quite indifferent as to whether the prime minister is satisfied or not with his own KPI on his government agencies!