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Monday, 4 February 2013

Why and how to complain?

Done right, complaints help us to improve and accommodate

I AM not the type who usually kicks up a fuss about, say, service at a restaurant. It has to be pretty bad before I show my displeasure.

But really, I am not sure that it's quite the right way to be.

If someone is doing something wrong, is it wrong to complain? Certainly not, especially if the intention is not just to vent but also to let the person know that he is doing something wrong.

You may have heard the quote “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” I don't know who said it and I could not verify it on the Net. But that quote strikes a wonderful chord that resonates within.

A complaint properly made helps to improve and that is its greatest strength. But its full benefit depends on why and how the complaint is made, and, importantly too, the spirit in which it is received.

But first, a complaint has to be genuine, not just to take the mickey out of someone whom you don't like for whatever reason. It has to be rooted in a genuine dissatisfaction.

And then it has to be made to the right person - someone who can actually do something about it. And service providers need to ensure that there are proper channels for people to make their complaints and to receive feedback.

We receive our fair share of complaints too. Over the year past, there have been many e-mails sent in response to my columns. Our analysis shows the complaints were centred around three main areas yes, crime and associated with it is corruption. The third area dear to the heart of all Malaysians is of course education.

Let's take the crime rate, and the incessant complaint about the incidence of crime and how it could not have come down despite the statistics showing it has. Take it from me if you make a report about a crime it is recorded. Get a copy of the report and the report number.

If any police officer refuses a report, take his name and number down and tell.

At the risk of criticism and disbelief, let me say that SMS feedback and surveys done after the public leaves police stations show 88.7% of those who had dealings with the police in Selangor were very satisfied while 11.1% were satisfied which leaves a miniscule 0.2% less than satisfied. That's out of nearly 117,000 responses.

Now, if the public was really dissatisfied, all they have to do is to say so in their SMS. The number to send it to is 15888. Just quote the report number. This service will be extended to the rest of the country soon.

Here's another piece of information: Despite all the anecdotal complaints that police do not take down reports, we have not received even one single complaint against any officer who has refused to take a report. If that's happened to you, e-mail me valid details and I promise action.

On corruption, it is important to remember that you can make a direct report with full details to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). Report officials who ask for bribes.

If your complaint is genuine and can be established, you will also enjoy immunity under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010. But don't go public with your information you must go directly to MACC or the relevant enforcement agency for crimes other than corruption.

On education, we need to recognise that this is a generational problem.

Changes don't take place overnight but gradually. We are doing things, as I have explained in previous columns. There is also plenty of information on this on our website.

The next stage is the finalisation and implementation of the Education Blueprint by the Education Ministry.

The public should also be aware that there is Public Complaints Bureau where complaints about the civil service and the government can be made.

But there is a steady decline here from 14,700 in 2010 to 13,366 in 2011 and 12,582 last year. I hope that decline is not due to rising apathy.

Apathy is the forerunner to hopelessness and I truly believe there is much, yes, room for improvement.

Don't give up, do let the complaints roll in but bear in mind a couple of things.

Be sure they are as specific as you can possibly make it and try to give an indication of the root cause of the problem you encountered instead of just the symptoms.

That will help the service provider rectify it. By all means complain we welcome complaints and the opportunity to do something about them. But have a heart simply because we do too.

There are many of us on this side who want change for the better as much as you do and will walk the extra mile together with you for it.

Transformation Unplugged - By Idris Jala

Datuk Seri Idris Jala is CEO of Pemandu, the Performance Management and Delivery Unit, and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department. Fair and reasonable comments are most welcome at