During a meeting with a ministry's officials in Putrajaya on Friday, my view was sought as to how the 'unspent' RM320,000 for an agency should be fully-utilised before year end. I said I didn't have any idea (I actually didn't want to have any part in it).
An officer suggested for a holiday-seminar for 2 nights in Langkawi for about 100 staff, another brought up the idea of organising an 'agency and blogger retreat' for 3 days in Port Dickson while a JUSA C officer proposed a 'leadership course' for 3 days in Gunung Jerai Resort.
I remember giving a talk to a 'more or less a workshop' attended by about 80 civil servants from a government agency in Gunung Jerai in November last year. I found out the workshop was organised to spend the 'unspent'.
Well, this is the time of the year when many government agencies and departments appear too busy organising seminars, retreat programs, courses and others.
Their main objective is not to see result of the events but to spend whatever allocated money left. If they don't spend or finish it, they will be perceived as not able to work on the budget or the agency itself will be seen as not in need of any budget to spend.
This is what we call 'Christmas shopping'. It is still very much in practice but I think this habit should be put to a stop as it is a waste of public fund. The money should be returned to the Treasury for other good purpose.
In his book 'A Doctor in the House', former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wrote:
past, unspent budget allocations for the various Ministries and Departments would be used up at the end of every year for what was called
“Christmas shopping”. They were determined to use up all the funds
allocated to them for the year; how else might they ask for increased funding,
or to resist cuts, for the next year? Public servants try not to return funds
because doing so implies that they are inefficient or too generously funded in
the first place, so they will do just about anything to show that all their
allocations have been spent. Often, it was said, they bought useless things,
inappropriate equipment or gadgets that quickly became obsolete after
hardly any use.When I
assumed office, I announced that this practice would have to end and that
funds had to be spent only on approved projects. Departments had to
budget to cover only what they felt reasonably confident they could do.
Budgeting, I insisted, would not be guesswork; it had to be more precise. I
looked over their shoulders all the time and usually drove around on
weekends to visit work sites. Rubbish disposal and landscaping were of special
interest to me. They say the devil is in the details and I was determined
to deal with this devil.
PM Najib should look into this. Ministers and head of departments and agencies should take into account that the unspent money is not for them to spend unnecessarily.
Government's money must be spent wisely, especially in improving the facilities in the rural areas and elevating the peoples' standard of living.
Its time to stop the 'Christmas shopping' habit as it meets no objective, apart from finishing up the money. While we enjoy they seminar and retreat, there are still people who find it difficult to make ends meet.
Think about it!