This directive will unquestionably resonate well with the rakyat in light of the endemic practice of giving gifts to VIPs at official functions.
The souvenirs (popularly known as cenderahati) are presented to VIPs at functions such as visits, opening/closing and launching ceremonies and other events. However, for reasons best known to them (some seemingly to curry favour with the bosses), they still carry on the age-old tradition of giving gifts to the VIPs.
True, some present a gift in good faith and with sincerity. However, the general perception of the public is that giving a special gift is actually not necessary in view of the fact that the VIP should feel highly honoured and privileged to be the guest of honour at such an important function.
In the context of the school, based on my experience serving as a principal, most schools hold several official functions a year such as speech day, sports day, appreciation day, prize-giving day and a host of other special days.
A committee is often set up to organise the function. Unfortunately, the most sensitive and time consuming task is the benign debate over the cost and the most appropriate gift to be presented to the VIP.
Additionally, for impending retirement of heads of departments, more often than not, there will be a general collection pro-rata among the staff. When the collection is added up to be given as a farewell gift to the VIP in particular, the monetary gift can be enormous. Now, with the Chief Secretary’s directive, apart from government departments, schools can save a lot of working hours and money cracking under the strain of coming out with the ideal gift to be given to VIPs.
To enhance the integrity of government service, it is of course better to do away with gift-giving at functions since there is a fine line between what is a genuine gift and what is not.
Strictly speaking, the VIP is essentially on official duty and therefore should not accept any gift from the host even if it involves hurting the other party’s feelings or not.
Our society just needs to change our mindset on this archaic practice of giving gifts to VIPs.
Nevertheless, I suppose that by convention some die-hard traditionalists will still present gifts to the VIPs.
If this is unavoidable, I suggest that the gift should be a book, plaque or a fruit basket and should be capped at the value of RM100.
Perhaps, for the sake of good governance and transparency, my impassioned appeal is for the Chief Secretary to create a protocol to explicitly spell out the Government’s no gifts policy, which surely will be extremely useful for the private sector when inviting high-ranking government officials or ministers to officiate their functions.
By and large, to pre-empt any suspicion among the Malaysian Anti-corruption Commission (MACC), it is prudent for the Government to implement the no gifts policy not only for government departments but also for the private sector when inviting government VIPs.