Rai·son d’ê·tre

myagr-in-context
The Malaysian Auditor-General’s Report Information Graph is developed with the objective of making the information in the report more accessible, integrated and usable. The underlying objective of this is to promote transparency, accountability and good governance in the civil service and other government agencies. You can access the information graph at http://myagr.mcthosting.net.
Listed below are some of our reasons for the development of this service:

  1. The Auditor-General is the auditor of about 3100 public entities. Each year, only a small sample of these entities is audited. These audits are published in an annual AG’s report and tabled in parliament and the various states legislative bodies. Since 2013, these reports are published in three series and there are as much as 124 documents per annum. Any researcher that wanted to do research on the audit reports would have to download several years of the annual AG’s report and try to digest them.
  2. The annual AG’s reports are organized for tabling at the legislative bodies. Management and consultants that wanted to diagnose the weakness of the civil service would need it organized differently to meet their diverse requirements. This is impossible using the National Audit Department (NAD) published format.
  3. The public entities are involved in a wide range of activities. Unfortunately, the NAD does not have a published list of these activities.  We have to construct a list of the audit areas by processing the audit reports and associating the audit reports with these entities. If anyone wants to compare audits, ideally they should be in the same audit areas.
  4. There are many issues raised in the audit reports. Unfortunately, the NAD does not have a published list of these issues.  A researcher may want to see the distribution of these issues as part of the diagnosis of the weakness in the civil service. We have to construct a list of the audit issues from the audit reports through named entities extraction.
  5. The annual development budgets of the government (in the order of RM50 billion) are expanded through the various projects and initiatives. A ready list of the projects audited is not available from the NAD. We have to construct this list from the audit reports. At the same time, it would be useful to categorize the status of these projects and their outcomes which unfortunately are not available.
  6. Procurement is a vulnerable area for the leakages of funds.  Researchers would need easy access to procurement information and issues and where they are occurring in the service.
  7. Is the civil service bloated? What did the audit reports tell us about the human resources management and development problems?
  8. How technical competence is the civil service? Is it able to develop, retain and use these technical staffs? Is this information available in the audit reports?
These are among the many reasons for the development of the Malaysian Auditor-General’s Report Information Graph.  The audit report is the product of a 2000 staff organization, and they contain a lot of information not available elsewhere. By making this information more accessible, integrated and usable, we are effectively raising it to a new level of transparency. Hopefully, this will be part of the foundation of a better Malaysia.

Addendum (2017-01-21)

We recently came across a phrase called “Rational ignorance”. The concept is that ignorance about an issue is said to be “rational” when the cost of educating oneself about the issue sufficiently to make an informed decision can outweigh any potential benefit one could reasonably expect to gain from that decision, and so it would be irrational to waste time doing so.  Anthony Downs proposed this economic theory in 1957 and it is usually applied to politics. Unfortunately, no viable solutions have been proposed.

Users of the AG’s Report suffer from this effect because of the complexity of the public sector, the voluminous reports and the spread of the audit information over hundreds of documents. It is likely that because of this effect, few people would try to master the AG’s Report. Even the mass media only highlight the sensational audit findings when a new series of the AG’s Report is published.

In InfoGraph, our solution is the increase the benefits of gaining the knowledge (usable knowledge) while at the same time reduce the cost of gaining the knowledge drastically.

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