IN my previous column, I had presented two scenarios of how people interpret the law; with one viewpoint from the public and the other from the local council.
Indeed, many people have complained about the inefficiencies of local government and the lack of coherence in how things are done, causing a few to disregard due process. Others complain about how some officers indirectly hint that things would get done a lot faster if there was an “incentive”.
The stories of the two traders in my previous column are neither unique nor are the issues new. In fact, they point to an administrative problem. Question is, why do such problems persist?
To the layperson in a predicament, it would appear that the council is filled with incompetence, or at least until the proper “incentive” is provided. Yet, no one steps forward to file a report against such officers, most likely because there is no assurance that action will be taken or for fear of persecution.
Indeed, as a councillor, I am not empowered to handle administrative issues directly. Councillors can only issue directives for administrative issues to be resolved. The actual work has to be done by council officers. And how closely officers adhere to the written rule depends on how closely they are monitored. That duty lies with the department heads and their deputies, who can only be removed from their jobs if the state government allows it as per the Local Government Act.
With such a complicated system in place, it is little wonder that the public sometimes blames the politicians for not delivering the promise of change. After all, the politicians have been placed in power, and it should be their duty to implement the necessary administrative changes — including the sacking and removal of non-performing officers.
For many politicians however, the sensitivities of the civil service must be observed, lest the state’s political leaders are sabotaged and their requests for issues to be resolved ignored. With the average person’s unwillingness to file official complaints, this then becomes a vicious cycle of inaction. Hence, a simple licensing application repeatedly becomes a tedious process.
Public participation required
Despite the challenges, I am committed to improving the council’s administration by making public my research on government processes. This allows the public to arm themselves with the knowledge they need to fight for their own rights even if it puts me at odds with those who would rather the public remain ignorant.
However, knowledge is only useful for those who intend to use it. And unfortunately, the public can sometimes be really lethargic when it comes to fighting for their rights.
Take for example the issue of local council meeting minutes, which the Local Government Act says is accessible to ratepayers. Till today, more than six months after I revealed this, no one has taken up the challenge to request for the local council’s meeting minutes.
For any meaningful changes to occur, the public must take an interest and act on what they want changed. Simply leaving it to the politicians will not bring about the desired change.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak wants change but he cannot want it enough for everyone.