Saifuddin: Jasa rebranded, RM85.5m budget reduced but unspecified

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Saifuddin: Jasa rebranded, RM85.5m budget reduced but unspecified
Saifuddin: Jasa rebranded, RM85.5m budget reduced but unspecified

PARLIAMENT | Reviving the controversial Special Affairs Department (Jasa) will take less than the RM85.5 million it has been allocated, assured Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah today.

He also assured that the agency will not be headed by politicians or be used for political propaganda for the Perikatan Nasional government.

Speaking during his Budget 2021 winding-up speech this afternoon, he said Jasa will be rebranded as “Jabatan Komunikasi Komuniti” (J-KOM) and be used for grassroots communication.

“The objective of J-KOM is to create two-way communication between the government and the people by delivering accurate and intelligent government information to the rakyat and seeking their feedback.

“The method used will be to develop a community, especially at the grassroots level, to practice a culture of knowledge, have digital skills, appreciate the meaning and focus of patriotism through community empowerment,” he said.

The agency aims to develop three types of “communities” - a Culture of Knowledge Community, Digital Community and Patriotic Community.

Unlike Jasa, which operated in every parliament and state constituency, Saifuddin explained that J-KOM will be structured differently by operating at the district level.

This, he said, would help save on operating expenses but he did not specify by how much.

“I give my assurance that the amount (of spending) will be reduced [...]

"The reason I can say that is because the RM85.5 million number was based on a parliament and state constituency (structure) but we are using a district structure now. There are only 160 districts, not as many as parliamentary and state seats,” he said.

Faced with a barrage of questions from MPs on the new agency’s functions, Saifuddin stressed that J-KOM will not be a partisan outfit.

“I want to give my assurance that J-KOM will not be a propaganda machine. Not under my charge.

“(Appointments) will follow the public service application process and the main criteria (for selection) will be IT savviness.

“I want to assure that that director and deputy director will not be chosen from politicians. (The staff) has to be a combination of professionals and civil servants,” he said.

Overlapping duties?

During his speech, Saifuddin’s predecessor Gobind Singh Deo (Pakatan Harapan-Puchong) questioned the need to establish a new communications agency given the existence of RTM, Bernama and the Information Department (Jabatan Penerangan, or Japen).

The DAP lawmaker asked if J-KOM’s budget would be better spent if used to improve existing agencies instead.

RSN Rayer (Harapan-Jelutong) also wondered why money was spent to revive J-KOM when allocations for other agencies had been cut.

Backbencher Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) queried if there was any overlap between the new agency and Japen.

In response, Saifuddin said J-KOM was formed to plug weaknesses suffered by the government’s existing communications agencies by providing “human stories” as well as communication-based analysis and solutions.

He stressed that the new agency will differ from JaPen by focusing on community empowerment.

“J-KOM’s functions will not overlap with agencies at other ministries whether by target group, programmes or activities,” he added.