by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Sunday, February 9, 1992:
DAP calls for an all-party Parliamentary Inquiry as to how the Public Services Department could make such a colossal mistake as to overpay 25,000 civil servants for 10 years and why it has taken over a decade to discover such a mistake
It is most shocking that more than 25,000 civil servants were “overpaid” by between $400 and $20,000 over the past 10 years. It reflects very popular on the administrative efficiency and competence of the Public Services Department.
The employees who were ‘overpaid’ belong to 25 schemes of service whose salaries were revised between 1980 and 1984, including 14,000 typists, security officers, air traffic controllers, Mara lecturers, machine operators, despatch riders, file searchers, record keepers, chemists, physicists, biochemists, agricultural officers and librarians.
Their salary revisions were based on the Benham principle (introduced in 1952) which advocated point-to-point increases, resulting in all the employees enjoying good increments.
However, last month, the Public Services Department informed heads of ministries and departments that the revisions should have been based on the 1976 Cabinet Committee Report principle instead of the Benham principle.
For example, an air traffic controller’s salary was raised from $785 to $945 under the Benham principle. But under the Cabinet report principle, there would have been no change in salary. He was thus “overpaid” by about $20,000 over 10 years.
DAP calls for an all-party Parliamentary Inquiry Paper as to how such a colossal mistake could have been made by the PSD. The Parliamentary Inquiry should have at least the following terms of reference:
(i) how such a colossal mistake as overpayment of 25,000 civil servants could have been made;
(ii) why it took over a decade before such a mistake was discovered;
(iii) whether the mistakes was discovered earlier by some official but overruled and/or ignored;
(iv) the total costs that have to be borne by the taxpayers as a result of the colossal mistake by the PSD; and
(v) how much such excess payments could be recovered.
Unfair to demand 25,000 civil servants to repay the Government for the mistake of the PSD for overpaying them in the past ten years
The Director-General of Public Services Department, Tan Sri Mahmud Taib, said that the civil servants involved were likely to be asked to refund the extra payments made to them unless the Treasury decided to write them off.
He said that in principle, those who gave wrong directives would have to pay surcharge and that those overpaid, to refund their money.
The DAP agrees that those PSD officials responsible for the mistake in the first instance as well as those who had not discovered the mistake earlier should be surcharged. The DAP is also of the view that as it is the PSD which revised the salaries of the 25,000 civil servants according to the Benham principle, and applied the wrong conversion principle ten years ago, it would be most unfair and unjust to penalise the civil servants affected in demanding a repayment of the ‘excess’ or to readjust the salaries of the civil servants affected. In fact, many would have resigned or retired from the civil service, while others transferred or promoted