Categorised | Columns

Ratepayers as beggars

Not doing wonders for property value
Robyn Gallagher / Flickr)
IN a previous column, a reader requested for help to remove rubbish in Section 5, Petaling Jaya. The rubbish had not been removed for some time.

Such requests are not isolated. Other complaints are about pot holes or illegally parked cars outside commercial areas like Phileo Damansara in Section 16, Petaling Jaya. These complaints are a daily routine for a councillor.

Notwithstanding the tediousness of having to deal with these public complaints, such requests to a councillor for help show the council’s inability to provide an efficient and accountable service.



It is a simple matter for these issues to be resolved. All the council needs to do really is have a proper inventory of the things that need maintaining and a schedule for when these things should be done. Patching roads, repairing drains and trimming trees are but simple matters that would benefit from such a schedule.

Certain issues should be simple to resolve
woodleywonderworks / Flickr)

But there is no inventory and no schedule. When the councillors raise the issue of getting an inventory done, we are advised that the work needs to be done by consultants since the council does not have the expertise. When we meet these consultants, we find out that a project’s job scope is prepared by the consultant when they should be done by the council officers.

For work processes like business license applications, there are standard operating procedures. But monitoring to ensure the work is done is lacking. Plus, the feedback system is totally non-transparent.

There are plenty of excuses. Officers complain that department heads are slow in giving their authorising signature. Department heads complain that they do not have enough staff to get everything done. There is also a lack of coordination between the departments. All it takes is one department to hold up the paperwork to prevent an application from being processed.

Whatever the reasons for non-performance however, these are issues that the department heads need to resolve. Failing which, the department heads should be held accountable.

However, the sacking or transfer of department heads from one local council to another requires the state government’s approval and that has been slow in coming. Only recently were the engineering department heads from all local councils transferred from one local council to another.

Beggars all

City council — a game of musical chairs for our
council officersrick / Flickr)

Will these transfers improve the system? Only time will tell, since it is merely a play of musical chairs and not an actual revamp of the system. Besides, I have been given friendly reminders that politicians and councillors come and go but the council officers are here to stay.

The threats and what-not aside, so long as the present system remains, the public will still have to approach a politician to help solve their problems. Sadly, this also means that the people will have to continue begging for their rights — for that is essentially what everyone does when they go to a politician for help.

MBPJ councillor KW Mak is tired of listening to complaints, just as the people must be tired of complaining.

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4 Responses to “Ratepayers as beggars”

  1. kamal says:

    Interesting insights into the workings of bureaucracy. This is perhaps one reason we need local council elections – with elections, councillors may feel the heat to put more pressure and apply it frequently on council officers. But it is naive to think that local elections alone will solve all our woes. In the end, government servants at all levels and perhaps society at large as well, have to realise that strong and sustained development of our country (be it social, political or economic) really is anchored in a civil government that functions as it is supposed to – a tireless machinery that makes sure everything we take for granted (like security, clean piped water, road maintenance, regular garbage collection and disposal, primary education, primary healthcare, etc.) runs smoothly. The private sector cannot build the foundations of society. And they cannot build sustained industries without good foundations.

    But we pay government so much less, with the same years of experience and qualification as you do in the high-end private sector. I think we should be comparing senior government salaries to their high-end private sector counterparts because the responsibilities of government agencies are big and salaries rarely commensurate the work (yes, government servants should be busy). Hence, joining the service is a form of volunteerism; a national service if you may, and one that should be admired, not derided.

    Yet, today what do we think of government servants and government jobs? Easy job, laid back-canteen time, lazy, not qualified, not productive work (hence the argument against increasing salary), etc. If we want a government that meets our basic needs and ensures the fundamentals of society operate without a hitch, we need to first respect the services they render and expect more from those who are the cogs and wheels that make the system function. It isn’t an easy job, it isn’t a non-productive job and it isn’t a job for those without aspirations.

    The government in the end provides a vital service for society. But then we are back to the same problem – how do you motivate current officers to realise the significance of their duties to the country? Doing the job well is patriotism in motion. And I would say that is the big difference between developed countries and let’s say developing countries – in developed countries for the most part working in government is highly valued even if it remains underpaid. Yet for those in service it remains a source of pride.

  2. siew eng says:

    Council officers are here to stay? Can you elaborate how that is so? They got lifetime job guarantees? Is this another abusive aspect of the system that needs reforming?

  3. KW Mak says:

    @ siew eng

    Local Government Act: Section 17. Power of local authority to provide for discipline, etc., of its officers.

    (1) A local authority may, with the approval of the State Authority, from time to time make rules for the purpose of maintaining good conduct and discipline among officers and employees and may impose any punishment upon any such officer or employee who is guilty of misconduct or breach of duty in the exercise of his official functions:

    Provided that no punishment shall be imposed on any Head of Department or his Deputy without the prior approval of the State Authority.

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