Monday, February 05, 2007Judging by what has been going on lately, Malaysia is still a long way from becoming "Cemerlang, Gemilang & Terbilang".
We have highway structures cracking, recruit center shoddily built and delayed, high-profile cases thrown out and other examples of incompetence if not gross negligence. Even if excellence is out of our reach right now, could we instead settle for mediocrity? Mediocre is better than incompetent. We do not lose money. Ask any nasi lemak seller. They churn out mediocre nasi lemak every day and it get bought. There is no accounting for taste.
There is accounting for government projects though. That is why we have the Accountant-General and we have the Public Accounts Committee. From my experience at the ICU, Prime Minister's Department, there are criteria for contractors as there are standards and specifications for components in a project. Even for managing the project, there are written guidelines to follow. That is what ISO is all about so that even the mediocre can do the job albeit not as well as it should be.
In Terengganu, Mok Long Selamoh (May Her and Her Kain Lepah Barat Rest In Peace) called incompetent people "Dok Ngoppong". In modern English, you might have phrases like "Could not deliver"," could not cut it" or whatever you might substitute "Not competent" with. In Terengganu you have to be "ngoppong" to survive. If you are a fisherman, you have to be competent in getting your boat out to sea in the dark and you have to be a competent fisherman to catch enough fish to feed your family. If you are a "dok ngoppong" fisherman, not only will you catch no fish but you might not find your way home and you will land in some strange island, hungry and lost. But the thing is, no "dok ngoppong" fishermen ever go out to sea. If they do not know how to be fishermen, they won't go out to sea. They cannot "lebbong"( bluff or deceive)
the fish or the sea. Yet, we read about "dok ngoppong" contractors getting projects. Did they "lebbong" their way or are they in cahoot with interested parties to "lebbong" us, the tax-payers?
Minimum standards must be adhered to or we will be in great trouble. Imagine if there are no standards for pilots. Would you fly? Alhamdullillah, at least as it is, the "dok ngoppong" pilots cannot get to fly any plane without first getting certified. Don't we have the same for contractors?
Talking about standards, I am disgusted enough to tell you an equally disgusting old story about "piawaian"(standards). Children and old people who have heard the story before, go away.
Once upon a time there was a drop-dead-gorgeous lady who was yet to be married. Many asked her for her hand, many were disappointed. So she remained drop-dead-gorgeous and single.
One day a young man got to know her and subsequently asked her to be his wife. She told him she has high standards. He replied he is willing and able to meet them. So he told him to get her a hilltop bungalow in Bukit Tunku. After a few days he presented her the deed to the house. Then she told him to deposit a million ringgit in her account. The next day, he gave her the deposit slip. Then she whispered to him that he must have at least 6 inches. The boy turned pale. He gathered himself and being very much in love told the girl, tremblingly that he was prepared to surgically remove the excess 4 inches.
Drat, even as a story-teller I am "dok ngoppong".