Public property asset: management shortcomings.
In Malaysia, the nation's administrative hierarchy is arranged in a three-tier governing structure which involves three categories of government, namely the federal government at the central level, the state government for each of the respective states within Malaysia and the local government at the local level or at the delineated districts. Between all these three forms of government, it is the federal government which is seen to be the party most responsible in providing various services to the nation's populace. The provision of the numerous services is done systematically through the establishment of various ministries that hold different portfolios between one another. For instance, for the purpose of providing education services, this responsibility has been mandated to the Education Ministry, where as for security and defense purposes, the respective responsibilities lie with the Defence Ministry. In the efforts to develop and transform Malaysia into a Developed Nation by the year 2020, the federal government has, from time to time; strive to increase the quality and adequacy of the provided services. Through these efforts, several programmes and upgrading exercises have been conducted. The increase in the implementation of property development projects and infrastructure such as the construction of schools, government quarters, hospitals and the like, are part of the proactive measures done by the federal government through its respective ministries in ensuring the needs, welfare and overall well-being of its people is always taken care of. if not improved over time. As a result of these actions, there has been a steady increase in the property assets owned by the federal government, both in terms of quantity as well as value. The increase of these public property asset units has subsequently witnessed the presence of numerous weaknesses and shortcomings within the processes of managing these respective properties. This issue is clearly evident as seen by the reports contained within the mass media, such as newspapers, news forums and others. According to Hong (2008), through his study on critical issues in managing government assets and facilities, there are various statements voiced out in newspapers which indicate that the country is facing problems in managing its assets and facilities, especially since there is an evident existence of problems relating to building defects, maintenance, abandoned projects, lack of expertise, culture and a below par quality system among others. These issues have caused the government to incur losses, especially from the financial aspect. For instance, according to Bernama (2008), the government has spent 5.9 million Malaysian Ringgit per month as maintenance costs for 60 common use Federal building complexes. The weakness of the federal government in managing these public property assets has become critical since it was only as recent as the month of March 2009, that the government issued a specific guide for its agencies to manage their respective property assets systematically, where as previously, these government agencies did not have any specific guidelines or procedures that may have been used by them to ensure efficiency and efficacy in the practice of property management as incorporated within their respective organizations.
This situation once and for all proves that these government-owned property assets have not been managed according to specific and planned procedures. Nevertheless, through the Year 2009 General Circular Number 1, issued by the Prime Minister's Department here in Malaysia, a specific manual has been established to guide the government property asset management process by the agencies. This manual is known as the "Comprehensive Government Asset Management Manual". According to the Government of Malaysia (2009), the main purpose this manual was issued is to exhibit the seriousness of the government in handling several issues regarding the management and maintenance of public assets which has slightly damaged the government's reputation in giving quality service to the community. Realizing the existence of numerous problems and weaknesses within the aspect of the management of these public property assets and as an added initiative for the academia, this study was conducted with the main objective of identifying the key factors which arc found to disrupt or hinder the implementation of property asset management activities practised onto public properties owned by the federal government of Malaysia. In achieving this objective, it is hoped that it would may aid or be beneficial to the relevant parties, especially to the federal government in assisting them to plan, develop and execute a public property asset management strategy which is suitable, effective and systematic.
Real Property as an Asset
Any organization, including government agencies, are generally established to fulfill a certain purpose through the set objectives and targets. As stated in a majority of books on economy, land or property is one of the main sources of revenue and production (Weatherhead, 1997) which is needed by any party in enabling their organization to conduct production activities. This is due to the fact that no organization will be able to operate without land or buildings (Balch. 1994). Referring to this need, Balch (1994) has clearly stated that in this situation, real property has to be seen and referred to as a main factor of production. At the same time, as a resource, real property is often referred to as operational real property. This is because this properly will be used as a part of the requirements to execute a certain operation. Factories, for example, are usually deemed as the main requirement for industry owners who are seeking to conduct a specific production operation. Apart from acting as a resource, real property can also act as an asset to an organization, including government agencies. According to the definition given by the "Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka" (1993) in its dictionary, asset is defined as currency or property (such as land, buildings and others) which is owned by an individual, company, association or others. Based on this definition, it can be generally noted that any goods or valuable item can be referred to as an asset. Therefore, in the aspect of real property, it has always been universally accepted as an asset to its owners. Besides this, real property has value which enables it to be transacted as a commodity (Balch, 1994). With such a value, real property has the potential to play an important and specific role to an organization. As an example, in the private sector, real property is used as collateral for bank loans and to supplement the value of savings or funds of the shareholders (Balch, 1994). Therefore, as an asset, the value of the real property needs to be secured and maintained so as not to depreciate. The depreciation of the value of a real property will eventually cause the value of assets owned by an organization to depreciate as well. This situation is left unchecked will portray a negative image of the respective organization. However, asset in general can be defined as almost any kind of possession because it includes tangible and intangible materials. But normally, it can be divided into two categories, which are moveable assets (e.g. furniture, vehicles, etc.) and property assets. According to University of Leeds (2006) property assets are defined as land and built assets including buildings and infrastructure used by an organization regardless of tenure. In this study, the property assets in question are referred to a smaller context. This is because this term is only referred to government buildings constructed or established for the purpose Of providing various service functions to the community such as education, healthcare, welfare and others. The ownership of property assets which are large in quantity, functional, well managed, maintained and of high value is definitely the general target set by any party including government agencies.
The Problems in Managing Public Property Asset
The actual date regarding the implementation of a specific study about the issues of managing public property assets owned by government agencies cannot be determined precisely. However, referring to several previous reports, it is seen to be conducted as early as the 1980s, especially the report issued by the Audit Commission (AC) in the year 1988 which explains that the public property assets owned by the local governments in England and Wales were not managed efficiently or effectively. Through the report, it was discovered that the management problem originated from the existence of several weaknesses such as insufficient management information, lack of property management strategy, difficulty in implementing prescribed management procedures, weakness of the management structure, unclear property ownership objective, lack of performance evaluation and others. Referring to the findings of the study done by AC (1988), other government agencies initiated to evaluate their own capacities in managing their property assets. This is in line with what Deakin (1999) and Dent (2002) have discovered; a majority of local governments in England and Wales have started to adopt various approaches in trying to enhance their efficiency in the process of managing the related public property assets. Subsequently, through a study conducted by Avis el al., (1989), it was found that for operational property owned by local governments, the management problems encountered are normally centred on the difficulty in managing basic activities related to the property itself (such as difficulty in managing maintenance programmes for the properties and resource utilization management), difficulty of the strategic management programme in relation to the property (such as difficulty in managing matters related to procurement, disposal and strategic property surplus), difficulty in managing the implementation of general management activities (such as the implementation of strategic planning, financial control and performance evaluation) and lastly it involves the difficulty in managing activities that have connection and ties with external parties, such as the end users or other government agencies. This discussion regarding the management problems occurring in the management of public property assets, especially those involving local governments was continued by Ching (1994), where he surmises these problems into 6 categories, namely, inadequate organizational arrangement, inadequate property disposal strategy, lack of transparency in the use of property and lack of action in coordinating property maintenance problems. However, in discussing these management problems, Ching (1994) had in prior, established that these problems occur because a majority of properties owned by local governments were not utilized or managed as a corporate resource. If all these findings above are scrutinized, it can be seen that the focus of these studies with regards to the management aspects of properties owned by government agencies, are closely related to the operational local government owned property management problems, if compared to the properties owned by the state government or the federal government.
On the other hand, through the discussion put forth by Gibson (1994), he has elaborated on the existing problems faces during managing properties, especially in the United Kingdom, by taking into account all the contents of reports submitted by various parties, including those from the private sector and not only on reports which are from the local authorities or government agencies. Among the other reports which were referred to were the Ceri Davies Report on the National Health Service (1982), the National Audit Office (NOA) on Crown Estate (1988), the NOA on Metropolitan Police Estate (1989), University of Reading (1989), Debenham Tewson & Chinnocks (1992) and others. Through the in-depth study contained within these reports, Gibson (1994) has categorized the weaknesses apparent within the process of managing property into four main themes which are properties that are managed reactively, difference in objectives between the tenant and the owner, lack of performance monitoring and inadequate information. In his discussion, Gibson (1994) has forwarded an opinion that these management problems could have been solved if the respective properties were managed strategically. In addition to this, in discussing issues related to the process of managing public sector properties, Zailan (2001) has stated that these issues are closely tied to the reactive manner in which these properties are managed as well as the lack of performance monitoring.
When looked upon further, while referring to the study conducted by University of Leeds (2006) on the property asset management framework as practiced by several central governments in the United Kingdom, it was discovered that there are various issues which are inter-related, such as the Structure of government which has fragmented the overall strategic management of the central civil government estate and there are implications for the consequent levels of efficiency gains that can be leveraged and achieved, corporate administration and inconsistent as well as vague audits, lack of skills and capability among the implementation staff, overcoming fragmentation in property asset management in federally structured departments and lastly the need to establish standards and implement benchmarking. Apart from this, Kaganova and McKellar (2006) have also discussed about a few issues which arc deemed as universal problems in terms of managing government owned properties assets, especially in countries that have yet to implement any reform processes to fortify their respective public property management practices. These issues are lack of central policy framework, fragmented management of public property assets, economic inefficiencies associated with public property, lack of information needed for managing property portfolios, lack of transparency and accountability, lack of relationship between accounting and asset management reform, separation of ownership from management and finally, lack of an Information System. Meanwhile, through the research conducted by Shardy (2006) towards the establishment of specific departments or sections for managing local government properties, it was found that the relevant parties are still facing difficulties in determining the main functions that need to be executed by these departments or sections and this situation is seen as a critical form of weakness which cause hardships in effectively managing properties. Apart from this, in researching (he partnership programmes between government and the private sector in the aspect of managing federal government owned properties. Long (2007) has listed 9 challenges or problems as follows, the federal government has excess and underutilized property, federal facilities are deteriorating, the federal government has unreliable property data, the federal government relies heavily on costly leasing, federal government buildings require high security standards, federal agencies lack legislative authority to enter into public-private partnerships, federal government budget scoring rules are a disincentive to public-private partnerships, the federal government lacks guidelines to select federal properties suitable for public-private partnerships and the federal government lacks guidelines to evaluate public-private partnership deals. In considering all the relevant findings and outcomes as stated above, the notion of this study in general terms is that the problems or weaknesses in managing public property assets by the government can be referred to several distinct dimensions which involve:
Owner and consumer
The development or provision of any property is usually done by certain parties, including the government to fulfill certain purposes and needs. Generally, the government will provide property to enable its agencies to offer effective services to the community and at the same time, to fulfill its social and welfare obligations. The existence of these properties involve two vested parties, namely, the party that is the owner of the said property (such as investors, land owners, government organizations and others) and also the consumers/users (lessee, tenants or any party utilizing the corresponding property). In managing these public sector properties, there are various problems which are connected with the owner and user, which are seen to be the source that complicates the process of managing such properties. Among the problems are, the presence of different objectives in managing property, difficulty in getting co-operation from the users to implement planned strategic management, failure of the owners to execute property management approaches which are systematic and appropriate with the activities done by the tenants of the buildings as well as other problems.
Implementing property management practices on government owned property is not an easy task. This is due to the fact that these properties are owned to fulfill various specific functions, for instance, quarters for housing functions, sports complexes for exercise and athletic functions, hospitals for healthcare functions and school for educational purposes. Therefore, to ensure these properties are managed effectively, an adequate and specific organization (unit, section or department) needs to be established at the central level and also in every government agency organization to perform the relevant responsibilities, but what is happening today is contrary to this, as iterated by Zailan (2001), who states that in Malaysia, the responsibility to manage the public sector property is left to several government departments. Rosdi (1992) on the other hand, has firmly opined that these is a problem of activity implementation overlapping in managing local authority properties as there is no specific department that performs the necessary property management practices. Apart from establishing specific departments, the problems in managing public sector properties can also be connected to organizational weakness, especially when the organizational structure of the established department is not precisely done. The weakness in forming these departments will cause various negative impacts such as activity management processes which do not run smoothly or systematically, failure in conducting activities according to work priorities, the occurrence of job fields and scope which arc not uniform and other similar problems. Besides this, in the context of this study, management problems which are related to organizational aspects also include any problems that are tied with the objective, vision and mission of the organization itself, since these components are compulsory basic foundations in the establishment of any organization. Some of the related problems are formed objectives which are vague, unreliable objectives, incongruent purposes, lack of transparency and accountability, implemented property management programmes that differ from the objectives as well as other problems.
As with managing other assets, the activity of managing government owned property assets also needs the utilization of various specific resources such as human resource, tools and equipment, financial resources and others. These needed resources have to be adequate, qualified and managed effectively as well as efficiently in terms of usage. In discussing the problems that occur in managing government owned property assets, there are many scenarios related to the aspect of resources that can be considered as the root of these problems. Among those scenarios are inadequate workers, lack of expertise and skill among workers, insufficient equipment, insufficient financial resources (which hinder efforts to employ more skilled workers or to procure high technology tools and equipment) and others.
Problems related to managing government properties can be further tied to the aspect of strategy development. This is because, in order to manage property well, good effective strategies have to be integrated into the relevant management processes. This is in line with the statement by Zailan (2001) that reinforces the notion that managing property involves establishing goals, objective and policies and implementation of strategies to achieve those goals and objectives. Strategy in simple terms within this context can be seen as a guide, action or approach which is planned, designed, implemented and evaluated specifically to enable every public sector property management activity to be conducted systematically, effectively and efficiently in tandem with the objective or targets set by any government agency. Apart from this, within this study, the weaknesses associated with the aspect of strategy development will also be connected to the issues that touch on policies and regulations that have been created to manage property as these two elements gravely influence the formation of those related strategies. Some of the problems in managing property that can be attributed to strategy development is lack or absence of strategies to manage properties, lack of performance monitoring, difficulty in implementing planned strategies, no management incentives, absence of specific management procedures and others.
Information is critical to the management process (Gibson, 1999). Therefore, in order to implement comprehensive and effective property management processes and strategies, sufficient and precise information needs to be provided. This is due to the fact that it is through this information that the requirements, disadvantages and advantages related to the respective properties can be fully identified. This information will then be used to make better decisions related to the implementation of property management activities. The presence of the problem of inadequate information has been stressed by Gibson (1994) where he discovers that the information required in order to make informed decisions was often lacking. Apart from the problem of inadequate information, consideration regarding problems that are related or contained within the information dimension also needs to have a concern on the related aspects of information management and the use of information technology. This is because information can be comprehensively obtained and used when managed properly and the use of information technology has been proven as a necessity to ensure property information can be systematically managed and preserved. As such, among the problems that will be taken into consideration within this dimension include lack of information relating to property and management needs, difficulty in developing property information management systems, difficulty in the usage of computer applications and other similar problems.
The data required for this study has been gathered through the development of a questionnaire form. Contained within this questionnaire are 27 statements that are considered as problems or weaknesses faced in managing properties owned by the government. These statements were categorized into 5 categories based on the dimensions as discussed in the preceding Section 3.0. The Likert Scale was used as the answer format for each forwarded statement. The choice of answers were divided along a scale of 5, each representing as follows. 1 for not applicable, 2 for not influencing, 3 for little influence, 4 for influencing and 5 for extremely influencing. These questionnaires were then distributed to the government ministries which were identified as the main respondents of this study. The choice of these ministries as respondents was based on the fact that each ministry established by the federal government of Malaysia was conferred certain authority and rights to act as the main drivers for the government departments under specific portfolios. As drivers, it is logical that each ministry has the right to administer and manage any asset, including properties used by the departments under their purview. Based on this notion, initially 28 ministries were selected to be involved in this study as respondents. However, after these ministries were met and briefed on the requirements of this study, only 12 ministries agreed to co-operate as required and needed. The data has been analysed using Frequency and Mean Score analysis.
Analysis and Discussion
Based on the table below, it is found that there were only five problems that recorded an influencing frequency value of more than 50% and at the same time, also scoring a mean score above 3.5. The first is the problem pertaining to lack of a proper property management unit/department established within the respondent organization. This problem returned an influencing frequency percentage of a 100 percent with a mean score of 4.7. This analyzed finding clearly shows that until now, the ministries have yet to establish a specific unit or department to conduct their respective property management practices. This scenario is congruent with the actual situation where it was found that the creation of these specific units, sections or departments only occurred in a majority of local authority organizations. The next problem identified as a source for the difficulty in the process of managing government owned property is lack of expertise. Analysis findings show that this problem recorded a 100 percent influencing frequency with a mean score of 4.5. When scrutinized, the occurrence of this problem is related to the problem pertaining to lack of a property management unit/department. This is due to the fact that the required expertise can only be attained and determined specifically when there is a specific department which is responsible to identify, train and expose the expertise to the concerned staff. Furthermore, when the staff responsible to undertake activities related to property management aspects are examined, it was discovered that a majority of them possess diverse educational backgrounds and there are instances where they do not have any relevance to the property field. In addition to this, the job rotational system practiced by the federal government in Malaysia is also seen as one of the factors that hinder staff from attaining the necessary expertise. Through the present designation system, it is common for staff members to only work within a certain location or field for a short period of time. These workers are usually transferred to different job sectors and locations according to certain needs or to fulfill certain obligations, for instance job promotion. With this kind of system, staff will face difficulties to build up their respective skills and expertise as their job functions and responsibilities are ever changing.
Subsequently, as shown in the table above, the problem relating to lack of proper strategies to manage the property has recorded an influencing percentage of 92 percent with a mean score of 4.4. This analysis finding shows that this problem is also considered to be one the main hindrances to government property management activities. The need to develop specific strategies to manage government owned property has been stressed by many parties such as Gibson (1994), University of Leeds (2006) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) (2008). Nevertheless, in Malaysia, the ability to develop specific and systematic public property asset management strategies is quite constrained as the required expertise and facilities are rather limited. In developed nations, there are specific institutions established to provide the necessary expertise and capabilities in assisting government agencies to develop and undertake comprehensive strategies in terms of managing their respective property assets. Institutions such as the RICS in the United Kingdom and the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) in the United States for instance were established to help provide training and guidance to various agencies, both from the public or private sector in ensuring these agencies implement professional property management practices.
Besides this, as seen in Table LO, it was found that the problem relating lo lack of proper management procedures also recorded an analysis finding which qualifies it to be considered as one of the weaknesses in managing government properties. This is because this problem returned an influencing frequency percentage of 92 percent with a mean score of 4.0. The existence of this problem cannot be denied as up until March 2009, government agencies were discovered to not have any procedures or guidelines specifically published to assist the process of managing government properties. However, in March 2009, the Malaysian government launched the "Comprehensive Government Asset Management Manual" to aid agencies in executing better and more systematic processes of managing their respective properties. Nonetheless, the applicability of the manual contents in terms of practical suitability has yet to be proven and is still open to debate as it was only recently launched and has not been evaluated as yet. Finally, another problem which is qualified to be considered as a source of weakness in terms of managing government properties is the lack of IT usage, where analysis has shown that this problem recorded an influencing frequency percentage of 67 percentage with a mean score of 3.7. In this modern era, the use of information technology is very much needed. In the aspect of property management, the importance of information technology usage is commonly seen as required from the perspective of retaining and managing all important records and data related to a certain property. The availability of this information can subsequently assist and facilitate in undertaking various efforts to fortify the implementation of government property management activities. Furthermore, according to Zailan (2001), the public sector needs a dynamic and integrated property management system that can be accessed and shared by government agencies. The fact is, according to Zailan (2001), to date there is no central authority that keep complete records of all central government properties.
The implementation of an efficient, effective and systematic property management practice is a necessity that should be undertaken by all government agencies in ensuring their respective properties are able to fully function in realizing their set objectives and goals. However, as with any other implementation of a management activity, the public sector properly management activity is facing numerous difficulties and problems which in the end cause the concerned properties to suffer from ineffective management. Through this study, as many as 5 problems were identified as management shortcomings in managing property assets owned by the ministries in Malaysia. Based on these identified problems, it was discovered that 4 out of 5 study dimensions involve management shortcomings as explained in the literature review section of this study. The existence of these problems should be seriously looked into and given consideration so that these findings can be appropriately used towards strengthening the government property asset management system of this country. In addition to this, due concern should also be focused on other problems so that they would not inflate to become more serious issues which may eventually invite more hardships to the agencies that manage the properties. By fortifying the implementation of property management practices by the government agencies, there is a very distinct possibility that a management reform may take place, which in turn will drive this nation towards achieving a better performance and reputation, on par with the developed nations.
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* SHARDY ABDULLAH, ARMAN ABDUL RAZAK, ABDUL HAMID KADIR PAKIR, MOHD WIRA MOHD SHAFIEI AND ABDELNASER OMRAN
* School of Housing. Building and Planning, Universili Sains Malaysia, 11800, Minden, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Table 1 Findings from analysis on the problems/weaknesses faced in managing government property assets Percentage for influence (based on the frequency combination Items on answer for Management scale 4 + scale * Mean No Shortcomings 5) Score A. Owner and Consumer 1. Confusion in 0% 1.3 terms of property ownership 2. objectives 0% 2.0 3. Differences in 0% 1.8 the objectives of property management Difficulty in obtaining co-operation B. Organisation 4. Weaknesses in 33% 2.3 organizational management structure 5. Difficulty in 25% 2.5 managing relationships between involved parties within property management practices 6. Absence of 33% 3.3 action with regards to the coordination and monitoring of the implementation of various activities and functions contained within the practices of property management 7. Lack of a 100% 4.7 proper property management unit/department 8. Inconsistent 0% 1.5 corporate and audit administration 9. Difficulty in 17% 1.8 identifying core business 10. Lack of 33% 2.0 transparency and accountability C. Resource 11. Lack of workers 42% 3.4 12. Lack of 100% 4.5 expertise D. Strategy 13. Absence of 42% 3.4 specific legal provisions 14. Lack of proper 92% 4.0 management procedure 15. Non opti mum 25% 2.9 use of property 16. Lack of proper 92% 4.4 strategies to manage the properly 17. Difficulty in 8% 1.4 implementing procedures set as implementation guidelines 18. Absence of 50% 3.0 performance evaluation 19. Difficulty in 33% 3.3 implementing the main functions of property management 20. Difficulty in 42% 3.3 implementing strategic programmes 21. Difficulty in 0% 1.2 conducting general management activities 22. Failure to 0% 1.3 identify lost costs 23. Absence of 0% 1.3 corporate approaches 24. A reactive 42% 3.3 management approach 25. Absence of 25% 3.4 benchmarking processes E. Information 26. Inadequate 42% 3.4 management information 27. Absence of a 42% 3.4 comprehensive technology management system 28. Lack of IT 67% 3.7 usage * Mean score with 3.5 and above is considered as influencing
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|Author:||Abdullah, Shardy; Razak, Arman Abdul; Pakir, Abdul Hamid Kadir; Shafiei, Mohd Wira Mohd; Omran, Abde|
|Publication:||Annals of the University of Bucharest, Economic and Administrative Series|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2010|
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