Last Monday, our columnist applied for a "dream job" with the Customs Department after discovering there are fool-proof measures to raise money for charitable causes. A week later, since he did not get nor expected a reply, he decided to pen a reply (purportedly) from the department.
Dear R. Nadeswaran
I have been directed to reply to your application. First, we would like to thank you for showing interest in our department and the happenings within. However, we regret to inform you that the vacancy had been filled long before we received your application.
To be honest, it is the policy of this department to fill such "exciting" vacancies which involve procurement and money with internal promotions and as a matter of fact, such positions are reserved for officers from the inner sanctum. Perhaps, you will read about the heroics of such officers in future editions of the Auditor General's Report, probably in 2017, as you had indicated in your letter.
Having said that, we need to clarify some points in your application which seem to suggest that there's a lot of wrongdoing in our department. This is far from the truth. On the contrary, we affirm that whatever claims you made in your application are true and can confirm that they are part of our work culture and customs (pun intended) which we have been exercising for decades. We may have a work-to-rule or other forms of industrial action if such systems which bring additional revenue are changed.
Ordering in excess of our requirements is one method we use to spend our budget allocated by the Treasury. Why should we save money which has been budgeted for our expenditure, even if we don't need the equipment?
We will look silly if we save funds for the government and we can justify that by putting on record that we collect billions for the government and that expenditure on equipment can be considered small change or "weekend rojak money" as one former minister called it.
Because you have not worked in our department or any government agency, you would not know the mechanics when it comes to spending. Let me give you an example. If we need 1,000 torchlights, we normally put up a budget for 2,000 or in some cases, 3,000. Our finance section approves it and money has been budgeted.
If we use the money to buy only 1,000 torchlights, next year, money will only be allocated for the lower figure. So, going by our standard operating procedures (SOP), we buy 3,000 torchlights, irrespective of whether there is use for them. What is wrong in keeping them in our store? That's how the government system works. And of course, buying such a quantity means there are hefty discounts and the invoice is adjusted accordingly.
We applaud your intention to raise money for charitable purposes. Let us state that such spirit and vigour are also with our officers, who also do their bit for the needy. Occasionally, they drop loose change in a container in the office. However, such efforts cannot be carried out in the same manner as you suggested. They cannot and never can emulate Robin Hood as they have their commitments.
Some of our officers have more than one wife and extended families to support, they have children studying overseas and some own two or more cars. Some are members of several golf clubs but avoid the club meant for civil servants. This is because they don't want to show off their RM40,000 golf sets which will cause envy among fellow civil servants. That's why their luxury cars can only be seen being vacuumed and polished in the confines of some of the best clubs in the country.
But they do a little for society and their contributions are minimal because our officers have been trained to plan for the future. Hence on retirement, with their pensions, some of them live in bungalows in posh neighbourhoods and on the fringes of golf courses.
While some get used to living in cramped quarters provided by the government, there are some who live in bungalows or renting their properties to support their lifestyles. Thriftiness has enabled this latter group. Some of them start saving from the day they start their service and within 10 years, are able to own bungalows costing a million each. Others just have to make one swoop and are made for life.
In view of the above and the "family concept" that is in practice, we cannot accept you into our fold.
Saya Yang Menurut Perintah.
Bagi Pihak Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Eksais dan Kastam diRaja Putrajaya
The writer's application which was published last week has gone viral. Thus, it was decided that he should close this chapter on an annual sour saga caused by the publication of the Auditor-General's Report. He hopes the words are taken in the same spirit as they are given with no malice to any party. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org