His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday called on the Public Service Commission (SPA) and the Public Service Department (JPA) to review hiring practices amid perceptions that recruitment procedures were inefficient and unfair.
The two government agencies are responsible for supplying qualified workforce to the public sector, said the monarch in a titah yesterday during an unscheduled visit to the JPA.
His Majesty said there are “public grievances” on recruitment. “It is less efficient when there is delay in application process for a post, and it is less fair when it comes to matters relating to interview and written test which are seen to have many weaknesses.”
His Majesty said one example is when the interview and test for a position include hundreds of applications from members of the public and fresh graduates as well as officers or staff in the government.
This can lead to speculation that the vacancy already has a chosen candidate. “For example, if the position is for the Lands Department, competing candidates would consist of members of the public, fresh graduates and candidates who are already in the Lands Department.
“During the written test, one of the questions was about the law related to land. For applicants who have just finished their studies, what do they know about land law? Did they study at university about land, and specifically about land law, in Brunei and learn all that will enable them to answer these questions?”
His Majesty said that logically, those already serving in the department would have been pre-chosen to pass while others would have no hope, even if they possess higher academic qualifications. He called on the SPA and JPA to examine the matter thoroughly and to not ignore the possibility.
Meanwhile, His Majesty said the procedure in matters of questions should not be static. Instead it should be adjusted from time to time, or adapted to the types of positions available. “For example, if it is a teaching position, then the questions must be about teaching. For the imam position, the question must revolve around the duties of an imam. If the position is for a preacher, it must be about preaching and da’ie duties.
“These questions need to be there for them to be considered relevant and fair,” said His Majesty.
His Majesty also called for the screening system of the list of candidates based on the criteria to be examined, as qualifications not recognised by the system are automatically rejected, even they are debatable.
“For example, for a post in the Ministry of Finance and Economy, there are prospective applicants who have religious qualifications judged as not meeting the criteria because it is thought that religious qualifications are only for teachers or imams. Hence, their applications are simply rejected.”
His Majesty stated that Islamic knowledge includes Muamalat, which covers all areas of economics, thus there is evidence that holders of religious qualifications can perform roles related to finance and economy.
His Majesty said financial institutions have appointed officers who have religious qualifications to positions such as their Syariah advisory boards, and sent them to participate in conferences and meetings related to financial matters.
“Based on these factors, they should not immediately reject candidates with religious background believing that they do not meet the criteria. This is debatable. Hence, it is the responsibility of the SPA and JPA to see this matter in a fair manner, and not with outdated guidelines based on assumptions and conjectures,” said the monarch.
His Majesty also urged the SPA and JPA to find a better way to replace retiring staff, such as recruiting long before they leave service.
“There have also been reports of promotion of senior officers that are not in accordance with procedures. There was a report of an officer who was promoted while under investigation by a certain agency,” His Majesty said, seeking an explanation for the irregularities.
His Majesty also questioned why the computerised testing system currently used fail to solve the delay in filling government positions.
Yesterday, His Majesty visited the SPA on Jalan Airport Lama in Berakas before proceeding to the JPA on Jalan Kumbang Pasang.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah; Acting Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Paduka Haji Sufian bin Haji Sabtu; and Deputy Minister (Civil Service Governance) at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Paduka Mohd Riza bin Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yunos were also present.