Sympathy promotions for civil servants before retirement creates mistrust, more inequity, and must end

It is not unusual to see civil servants, especially high-ranking officers who have less than a year before their retirement, get a promotion.

While it is not a phenomenon, it is rarely discussed.

This “sympathy promotion” exercise is common in many government agencies, and affects them, both in terms of public perception, and financially.

Promoting high ranking civil servants toward the end of their careers, in general, will not bring major positive changes, nor significantly impact any department.

Most senior civil servants will serve no less than 25 years during their careers. Thus, if a high-ranking officer is promoted a year or so before retirement, there is bound to be speculation among other employees that the officer was promoted simply because he or she is due for retirement, even if the decision was justified.

Promotions should be based solely on merit, and not sympathy. Promoting officers based on sympathy only creates more inequity, mistrust, and most of all, inefficiency in the civil service.

In recent years, state police contingents have seen chief police officers who served a little over a year or so before retirement. Similar patterns can be seen at Bukit Aman where directors, deputy directors and other key positions were given to those with a year or so left before their mandatory retirement.

Public universities are not spared either. Senior administrators (non-academic) have been promoted a few months before retirement. Similarities can be seen in other government agencies as well.

To what extent can a high-ranking civil servant bring strategic and effective changes to an entity when they have less than a year or so to serve?

While the answer is rather obvious, more questions need to be asked.

  • Will the officers change the status quo of the department or simply maintain it?
  • Will they introduce new strategies that can be implemented effectively and evaluated during their short tenure?
  • Will their newly introduced strategies be continued by their successors or simply dropped?
  • Will they go the extra mile to take disciplinary or criminal action against their staff suspected of misconduct?

The cost of promoting high-ranking officers almost at the end of their tenure will also have a major effect on emolument and the pension scheme. This unwarranted financial burden will be borne by taxpayers.

If promotion is based solely on merit, a well-planned succession strategy must be in place. Promotions must be done earlier to ensure that their services can be more strategically utilised.

If one was so efficient, why wait till the last minute to promote the individual?

However, the reality is, our civil service promotion system is seriously flawed and much needs to be done to fix this.

Society and our future generations must have confidence that the civil service is built solely on merit and professionalism, and nothing less.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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