IN this exciting episode of Ampersand, I shall talk about waste management, the local authority, and how our tax money is being used to get the dirty job done (pardon the pun).
Charming… (© John Nyberg / sxc.hu)
For the longest time, solid waste removal was a job handled by the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ), as required under the Local Government Act 1976.
On 6 Sept 1995, the federal government passed a motion to instruct local councils to privatise their solid waste-removal services. Much to the government’s chagrin, the MPPJ and a few other local councils resisted the move, causing the government to issue yet another directive to privatise the service in 1998.
And so it was that the MPPJ, now known as the Petaling Jaya City Council or MBPJ, signed an agreement with Alam Flora in 1999. Rather than give the waste-management company a 20-year concession, the MPPJ councillors implemented a yearly contract to ascertain Alam Flora’s capabilities.
That trial contract exists till today, with the council preparing to sign yet another year away to Alam Flora for 2009 worth RM52 million, up from the RM47.5 million budgeted for 2008.
During a 15 Sept session for resident groups to debate the merits of the MBPJ budget for 2009, several PJ residents questioned the need for the city council to spend such an exorbitant sum of taxpayers’ monies on a company that doesn’t seem to perform.
Alam Flora’s argument has always been consistent. The rates have not been revised since they took over. Rising costs coupled with the MBPJ’s refusal to commit to a 20-year concession also prevents the company from getting a bank loan to upgrade their service.
To neutralise Alam Flora’s argument, the previous group of councillors saw it fit in 2007 to give Alam Flora the new rates it sought. The MBPJ will have to honour these new rates if it renews the one-year contract. With these new rates, shoddy waste removal should hopefully be a thing of the past.
PJ residents would no doubt question the council’s need to renew the contract. Ideally, the council should call for open tenders to obtain more competitive rates. However, drawing up a contract takes time, and waste removal services cannot stop in the interim; so the best short-term measure would be to give Alam Flora another year.
Minister has final say
Another factor leaves the MBPJ in a bind on how best to provide long-term waste-removal services: the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 and the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation Act 2007.
The two laws take away waste-removal services from the local authorities and put it under the jurisdiction of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation (SWPC MC) being set up by the housing and local government ministry.
When this will happen is uncertain, as information on the act’s implementation is scarce and contradictory. In Utusan Malaysia, the takeover date was reported as 1 Jan 2009, while The Star reported September 2008.
Since it is already October and the ministry is still recruiting the staff needed for this takeover exercise, it is more likely that the act will only be enforced by 2009 at the earliest.
(© Sanja Gjenero / sxc.hu) The Selangor government will oppose this takeover exercise. There is talk that the funding for waste-removal services will still be drawn directly from local councils. But there are no clear indications as to how local councils will be able to control and direct the kinds of services provided.
Another cause for worry is the act’s arbitrariness. It gives the housing and local government minister the final say in any decision. Should a local council be unhappy with the services provided by the SWPC MC, the only recourse is to appeal to the minister whose decision is final.
Section 13(2) of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act leaves one to believe that the minister’s decision may not even be challenged in court, leaving everyone at the tender mercies of one person.
Due to the uncertainty over how the act will be implemented and whether it will be enforced in Selangor, any attempt by the MBPJ to review waste-removal services in Petaling Jaya at this juncture may amount to just so much paperwork.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak wonders if the housing and local government ministry has a comprehensive plan to even do this takeover exercise on 1 Jan 2009, considering the huge task involved in coordinating waste management for Peninsula Malaysia.