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Local council incompetence — whose fault?

Some people can't buy coffee without your helpful incentives (© dspruitt | sxc.hu)

Some people can't buy coffee without your helpful incentives (© dspruitt | sxc.hu)

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?

Bureaucracy

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.

Labyrinth (Wiki Commons)

Bureaucracy, the labyrinth for Malaysians (Wiki Commons)

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.

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2 Responses to “Local council incompetence — whose fault?”

  1. Peter Leow says:

    Dear Mr Mak,

    [I've read your articles] and I am very impressed. In fact I have copied several such articles written by you and shared them with my friends and YBs in the PR, and I hope these leaders will respond urgently to the concerns you have raised. I wish all councillors could be employed on a full-time basis with appropriate allowances paid instead of such low allowances that cause councillors [to pursue the hidden agenda of gaining additional rewards]. Councillors should connect residents with the councils, and they should be employed full-time to deal with the many issues raised.

    I have been reminding my councillor about the poor delivery of requests for a simple basketball court repair in SS4C/18. Despite this, the needs of the residents [remain unfulfilled] as of 21/2/2011, though affirmation was given that work would be done by first quarter of 2011, and it looks like the MBPJ will delay this until 31/3/2011. With the votes entrusted by voters to YBs, I hope the YBs will double efforts to monitor civil services to deliver [more efficiently].

    [On another note], how do I ask for minutes of an MBPJ meeting? Where can I send my request, and can MBPJ simplify this by allowing electronic requests, i.e. via email? Could you suggest that MBPJ must respond to complaints made by residents within seven working days? Please also make an attempt for MBPJ to solve every complaint made within three months after the complaint is lodged. Thanks.

  2. KW Mak says:

    @ Peter Leow,

    To answer your questions:

    1. There has never been any official method assigned for how a ratepayer should ask for the meeting minutes, even though it is allowed by law. I can only suggest that a letter be written to request for the full board meeting minutes of a given month of the year and attach a copy of your assessment bill as proof that you are a ratepayer. If you would like to do this electronically, I would suggest you scan in a copy of your assessment bill to be attached to the email.

    2. The MBPJ has a complaints unit – the number is 03-7954 2020. Once you file a complaint there, they are obliged to give you a reference number and give you an update to the problem within 48 hours. If the problem is a simple issue involving potholes or the fixing of a streetlight, the department should similarly be able to handle it within that 48 hours (or if they require longer, they should update you). If they do not respond within 48 hours, call up your local councillor and provide the reference number. If I receive such a complaint, I will direct the department to give me a written response on the issue and take it from there.

    3. Details of all local councillors are available on the MBPJ website – http://www.mbpj.gov.my – but the site navigation is not the best. To save you the hassle, here’s the link to the pdf files for the councillor’s contact details and the areas each councillor oversees.

    http://www.mbpj.gov.my/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=618c30ef-b2a5-4e24-afc4-7d133300ab52&groupId=21857

    http://www.mbpj.gov.my/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=695a38b1-26dd-4bce-a5ce-a088d1615980&groupId=21857

    Regards.


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