KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 – The Health Inspectors Union Peninsular Malaysia (KIKSM) has demanded an independent investigation into a case of alleged retaliation toward a health inspector for filing an internal complaint against workplace bullying from superiors.
KIKSM said it has informed the head and deputy head of the profession about the issue surrounding the U29 assistant environmental health officer (PPKP), whose recent bullying complaint filed via the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) SISPAA complaints channel had gone viral within the health inspector profession.
“We demand an independent investigation from the top leadership of the Ministry with integrity, fairness, and without negative retaliation – whether physical or mental pressure – from the party complained about,” KIKSM said in a statement last Wednesday.
“The Union also asks the Ministry’s top leadership to investigate and take action against the individual(s) lacking integrity who viralled the complaint that had actually been filed via SISPAA.”
KIKSM said it had been following developments about the case since last October 4 involving the U29 PPKP’s bullying complaint and also complaints about “unprofessional actions by certain parties” in managing the viral complaint.
The complaint by a U29 PPKP, currently based in the Kinta district health office in Perak, accused the majority of supervisors of U29 PPKPs – especially U32 and U36 PPKPs, and U41/42 environmental health officers (PKP) – of fobbing off their responsibilities onto him and other U29 PPKPs in districts.
“This has caused me mental pressure because I’m forced to do the work of my supervisors that they should have been doing,” he said in his written complaint that is over 1,700 words long, as sighted by CodeBlue. His complaint did not name specific individuals.
The health inspector – who said he has been serving in his U29 position for a decade across three states – claimed that fellow U29 PPKPs in other districts and states suffered the same work overload caused by their superiors’ alleged dereliction of duty.
A source said the complainant was summoned by the head of the Perak state’s inspectorate and legislative unit (UIP) for making the internal SISPAA complaint. CodeBlue understands that a screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation between the complainant and the Perak state UIP head had been spread around within the health inspectors’ fraternity.
“The latest information is that the complainant is now under stress and has taken no-pay leave for a month,” the source told CodeBlue yesterday on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorised to speak to the press as a civil servant.
The Malaysian Environmental Health Officers and Assistant Officers Association (MyEnvHeat) said in a statement yesterday that the association had a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, whether in physical, emotional, verbal, or cyber form.
“Immediately report it to the union or association or top management through the right channels. We will take appropriate action to resolve bullying cases immediately and confidentially.”
Allegedly No Requests for New PPKP Positions Despite Need
The health inspector, in his SISPAA complaint, alleged that some U41/42 PKPs in districts did not perform their duties in requesting for new PPKP positions in human resource planning, claiming that last year, there were zero requests to add U29 PPKP positions.
“When there are no requests for new positions, this means that there is no additional need for U29 PPKP positions, even though we at the bottom are overloaded with work and pressured to improve the quality of work,” said the complainant.
“How can the Ministry be aware of requests for such positions if our supervisors do not inform the Ministry?”
He also questioned why many U29 PPKPs are placed in state health departments that make policy, noting that the Perak state health department has over 20 permanent and contract U29 PPKPs.
“In my view, the shortage of U29 PPKP positions in the district health office burdens U29 PPKPs as the implementing officer in the district. In my view also, I believe that it’s better if the 20 U29 PPKPs are placed in districts to perform their role in enforcement of public health legislations.”
Logistical and Finance Planning Allegedly Fobbed Off to U29 PPKPs
The U29 PPKP complained that although planning for logistical and financial needs was the job of U41/42 PKPs, this task was allegedly handed to U29 PPKPs in districts, such as looking for other U29 PPKPs to join enforcement operations in public health.
U29 PPKPs also are allegedly tasked to look for vehicles for such enforcement operations, besides getting instructed to liaise with other related departments or enforcement agencies, such as the police.
“Dealing with higher ranked officers in other departments is a rather awkward situation for U29 PPKPs, as it’s widely known that we have superiors,” the complainant wrote in his SISPAA complaint.
“We were asked many times about the whereabouts of the U29 PPKP’s head or supervisor during operations that involve other government agencies; we could only smile and say that they had lots of other work to do.”
The complainant noted that it is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that asset requests by U29 PPKPs in districts – which are made nearly every year – are processed and made available for use.
“However, many assets requested for U29 use are not received; in fact, there are cases in districts where the asset requests were not even processed, forcing U29 PPKPs to liaise with the office management (pihak pengurusan pejabat) or to even contact the state health department to make a request.”
Enforcement and Prosecutions Allegedly Left to U29 PPKPs
The U29 PPKP based in the Kinta district health office complained that U29 PPKPs are often left alone in enforcement operations for public health, without any operation brief or supervision from U32 or U36 PPKPs in the field.
Citing a 2005 Public Service Department (JPA) circular, the complainant said U32 or U36 PPKPs are responsible as the operation head to lead a unit, implement, and supervise.
He also accused U32 PPKPs, U36 PPKPs, and U41 PKPs in Perak of failing to provide targets for issuing notice of offences or compounds for enforcement activities, unlike Johor.
“This is a loss to the strength of the PPKP in enforcing the Public Health Act in Malaysia,” the complainant wrote.
In the Kinta district health office, where he is currently located, the U29 PPKP said medical doctors placed in the district health office have gone out to enforce the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004, unlike the majority of U32 and U36 PPKPs despite their powers.
“Most of those who have been doing enforcement activities are only U29 PPKPs. You can conduct audits on any district health office to prove this. Look at the rate of issuance of compounds or offence notices in the district,” said the complainant.
The U29 PPKP complained that assistant environmental health officers of his grade in Perak were instructed, against their wishes, to act as the prosecuting officer in court, even though such a responsibility is with the U32 or U36 PPKP, or the U41/42 PKP, as per a 2005 JPA circular.
“The excuse given was that this was to give exposure to U29 PPKPs for future promotions. But this is really an additional burden to bear someone else’s duties and to learn something that isn’t even the role of the U29 PPKP,” the complainant wrote.
“Too much work has been offloaded to U29 PPKPs that makes it seem as if U32 PPKPs, U36 PPKPs, and U41/ 42 PKPs have no specific work and only have a few duties. With such little workloads, I reckon that the creation of additional PPKP and PKP positions will be highly unlikely in future.”
U29 PPKPs Allegedly Tasked With Data Analysis Presentations, Reporting, And Research
Citing a circular, the complainant said data analysis at weekly epidemiology meetings in certain districts is a duty of the U32 PPKP, U36 PPKP, or U41/42 PKP.
However, U29 PPKPs end up getting burdened with the task of data analysis and presentation.
“Not only that, there is completely no effort to understand the journey behind each matter in the presentation. In fact, some supervisors – who are the U32 PPKPs, U36 PPKPs, or U41 PKPs themselves – who lambast and give terrible comments towards the U29 PPKP’s presentation. It’s utterly heartless,” the complainant wrote.
“These are the workload and stresses faced by U29 PPKPs in every state and district, including my own district where I’m working,” said the U29 PPKP based in the Kinta district health office.
“With such a workload, how can U29 PPKPs’ quality of work be improved? I wish to get an explanation from the Ministry of Health about this issue – is the U29 PPKP’s workload indeed like this or are we actually being bullied in the districts?”
The complainant, who has worked in three states in 10 years, claimed that U29 PPKPs in all the states he has served were instructed to produce reports on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis for each unit, even though this responsibility should have been borne by the unit head, the U32 PPKP.
“We’re already doing field work, now we also have to do reporting,” he lamented.
“The violation and dereliction of all these duties, in my opinion, damages the work system at the inspectorate division in district health offices in each state. I ask for an independent party to conduct a transparent investigation for each detail in my written complaint.
“In my 10 years of service, these issues have been going on and, in fact, have gotten worse in terms of the U29 PPKP’s duties. Workload has been increasing only for U29 PPKPs.”
The complainant claimed that he has not seen U41/42 PKPs in districts do any sort of research throughout his years of service in three states. Any research done was conducted only by U29 PPKPs.
“How can we compare research by a supporting officer with a professional officer? The quality of research should be vastly different, in terms of the competency of the position,” he said, adding that research is one of the duties of U41/42 PKPs, based on a 2005 JPA circular.
“In my opinion, research is very important to show progress and need in upgrading or expanding the career pathway of a certain position. Research is the top reference for academics to study a particular issue or situation.”
The U29 PPKP ended his complaint by urging top policy makers at the MOH to take “drastic and effective” action.
“It is not my intention to besmirch the PPKP profession, but this is a reality that must be fixed before it’s too late. Already, many of my colleagues are anxious to get promoted, just to escape to an easy life with a U32 PPKP position.”