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April 14th, 2016
Finance • Justice

Malaysia’s Performance Management And Delivery Unit (PEMANDU)

In 2009, the Malaysian government set up PEMANDU to lead change in the country and to ensure that its national transformation programmes were successfully delivered. It has focused on the key areas where public services and the economy were most in need of reform and has made a positive impact on such issues as crime prevention, reducing levels of corruption, and improving rural infrastructure.

The initiative

Malaysia's Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) was established in September 2009 with Idris Jala as its chief executive. “Idris Jala was appointed minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and chief executive of [PEMANDU] in 2009. He is responsible for leading the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), which underpin Malaysia's efforts to become a developed, high-income nation by 2020.” [2]

PEMANDU - which is Malaysian for “guide” as well as being an abbreviation of Performance Management And Delivery Unit - is shaped by the belief that methods and approaches used in the private sector can be applied successfully to the public sector. For the areas identified in the GTP and the ETP, PEMANDU designs and conducts detailed pilot projects to arrive at a suitable method and to identify KPIs associated with the programmes. It also monitors the progress of all the programmes related to the GTP and the ETP.

The challenge

After the success of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in the UK, similar agencies were founded throughout the world. This model was under consideration in Malaysia as well, particularly given the challenges posed by the nation’s transformation programmes, which consists of two main strands. “The GTP aims to transform public-service delivery and ensure a high standard of living for all. The ETP is about enabling and unleashing greater private-sector initiative, with the government acting as a facilitator for the planned level of investments.” [1]

The public impact

PEMANDU has achieved significant impact since 2009 in its work on the GTP:

  • “Supporting law enforcement to achieve a 35 percent drop in reported street crime within one year. [3]
  • “A survey conducted by Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer 2010 showed that 48 percent of Malaysians felt that the government's efforts in fighting corruption were effective — a significant increase from 28 per cent in 2009.
  • “In rural areas, approximately two million people benefited from projects that provided potable drinking water, extended electrical service, built roads, and restored housing.”

Stakeholder engagement

PEMANDU was given a mandate by the Malaysian prime minister to initiate change in the country. Idris Jala was given the role of minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, and works closely with the ministries in charge of, and operating in,  the areas covered by the GTP and ETP.

PEMANDU also takes advice from experts from organisations such as the World Bank, the IMF and Transparency International to assess its progress and performance.

Political commitment

PEMANDU has the continued support of the prime minister and the government of Malaysia and the government that proposed the setting up of PEMANDU is still in power. “The prime minister wanted to take a personal leadership role in this work, including supporting and coordinating efforts across ministries and closely monitoring progress. PEMANDU was established to provide a dedicated capacity and the prime minister appointed Idris Jala, a successful corporate leader, as chief executive.” [4]

However other major parties in the country have begun to question the agency and its relevance. Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers have joined Barisan Nasional (BN) colleagues to question whether PEMANDU should be cut in size or scrapped altogether if it causes friction in the federal civil service.

Public confidence

The ruling BN party was re-elected in 2013, although with fewer seats than in 2008 and with fewer votes than the opposing PR alliance.

There is some distrust of Jala as well as of the initiative itself. “On home turf … there are still many who have reservations about PEMANDU's credibility and ability to deliver. The common complaint is that, despite the promising figures on GDP and investment growth, the unit has fallen short of properly explaining its high-level plans to the public, as well addressing the real needs of the rakyat.” [5]

Clarity of objectives

The objectives of the agency were to develop programmes that would help achieve the targets that were set for the GTP and ETP. These objectives have remained constant, although the objectives of the transformation programmes themselves have been amended as circumstances have changed.

Strength of evidence

PEMANDU was inspired by three existing models:

  • The delivery unit approach to improving implementation, particularly as developed by the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit in the UK. “In the original, linear design of a delivery unit, the principal or senior official is presumed to know what needs to be done, and the chief organisational problem is incentivizing subordinate agents to execute the plan.” [6]
  • The use of ‘reform teams' in large corporations.
  • The diffusion to the public sector of corporate ‘project management units' to guide reorganisations.


The technical feasibility was addressed by adopting an appropriate existing model (see Strength of evidence above) and adapting it to the Malaysian context. “In PEMANDU's variant, the various goals and plans are provisional, and governance mechanisms provide explicitly for their revision in light of information revealed by the efforts of local actors to implement them.” [7]

PEMANDU has been adequately funded by the Malaysian government, receiving an allocation of MYR39.2 million in 2014 and MYR42 million under the 2015 budget.


PEMANDU's leadership has gained recognition globally, in the US and elsewhere, with other countries consulting it in setting up their own delivery units.

The chief executive, Idris Jala, had significant management experience before taking on his role at Pemandu. For example, he “earned recognition for the rapid turnaround of Malaysian Airlines from making substantial losses to being a profitable business in the late 2000s”. [8]

PEMANDU staff come from a variety of backgrounds, both from the private and public sector. They are highly educated and originate from different ethnic backgrounds, this diversity enabling the unit to reflect the views of Malaysian society.


PEMANDU has adopted a number of measurement models:

  • “PEMANDU grounds its work on the Big Fast Results method, an approach that was originally developed in the private sector. The method helps monitor progress of large-scale interventions.” [9]
  • “PEMANDU identified which parts of the public sector to target by conducting a series of extensive consultations, including a number of public surveys, as well as analysing Malaysian media to identify

    the most recurrent topics and issues related to public services.” [10]

  • “PEMANDU also convenes an international panel of experts from the World Bank, IMF, Transparency International, and other governments from around the world to review progress on an annual basis. [11]
  • “To test the … impact captured internally, they have commissioned the consultancy Price Waterhouse

    Coopers to undertake an external review of progress.”

One example is its approach to crime prevention. “The team mapped every incidence of crime that took place in Kuala Lumpur over the previous two years and found that most of the crimes were committed in 11 hot spots. Their proposed solution was to redeploy 2,892 police to focus on those hot spots. This initial pilot proved a success and resulted in the redeployment of 20,000 policemen to primarily focus on 55 hot spots in just 12 months — the most significant redeployment of police in Malaysia's history, which resulted in a 35 per cent drop in reported street crime within one year.” [12]


The major partners of PEMANDU are the ministries that implement the programmes that it designs. “[It] works closely with the ministries in charge of the areas covered by the GTP to make this happen. It helps teams across government with designing and implementing projects. While PEMANDU will review and report on progress, the successful delivery of GTP programmes is the responsibility of the departments and teams that work with PEMANDU.” [13]

However, its critics say that there is friction rather than alignment with other ministries. “On October 29, Kulim-Bandar Bahru MP Aziz said PEMANDU's functions were overlapping with those of certain ministries. These ministries felt that PEMANDU had overtaken their roles and this has caused a rift between them, he said. ‘There is no proper communication with ministries. There is a lot of overlap and its directives are not clear,' Aziz had told reporters at Parliament. Kluang MP Liew took up Aziz's statement, saying … ‘PEMANDU has duplicated the work of the Economic Planning Unit and the Treasury, which in reality are two powerful bodies for crafting policy'.” [14]

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