MBPJ not transparent in preparing budget, say residents

Mohd-Azizi-Mohd-Zain-MBPJ-1PETALING JAYA: Petaling Jaya Mayor Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain has come under fire for a second year in a row over the lack of transparency in the city council’s annual budget.

At a press conference today, My-PJ, a coalition of NGOs and PJ resident associations, said it requested information on MBPJ’s 2016 audited reports, latest reports on expenditures and the budget for 2018 in a letter to Azizi on Sept 11, without success.

“Information like this should be made available to the public without having to invoke the Selangor Freedom of Information Enactment 2011,” said Esham Salam, a My-PJ committee member.

The residents are seeking a meeting with Azizi to discuss their requests.

Last year, My-PJ also called on MBPJ to be more transparent and accountable in the preparation, execution and monitoring of the budget.

Another My-PJ committee member, Jeffrey Phang, charged that the lack of transparency in the development of the budget amounted to “gross unaccountability”.

He pointed out that MBPJ failed to release the 2016 and 2015 accounts which had been audited by the Auditor-General.

“Malaysia is heading towards open data, but MBPJ isn’t releasing their data,” he said, adding that even statistics on dengue cases and action taken in PJ were not released.

Phang said under former mayor Roslan Sakiman, MBPJ published an annual report on the council’s financial standing and how council funds were used.

“Then, there was qualitative data. Now, there’s no more. Things are getting less and less transparent,” said Phang.

He also said what was frightening was that even councillors were not given full information on the 2018 budget, despite a public hearing on the budget scheduled in less than a week.

“Data should be made available to councillors before the public hearing, but they’re only given bits and pieces of information.”

Phang said that so long as Azizi did not address the issues raised like the provision of information, My-PJ would continue to highlight the matter.

Esham also voiced his disappointment over the small amount of money allocated for development in the city, despite the MBPJ’s large resources and reserves.

Pointing to MBPJ’s audited accounts from 2011 to 2014, he said the council’s reserves then stood at some RM560 million. Last year, only 13% of the RM400 million budget was spent on development.

Esham said My-PJ provided inputs for the 2018 budget, including the need to expand the free rubbish bins programme to cover landed commercial premises.

The system of appointing contractors and procurement, which had caused shoddy project deliveries in the past, should also be improved.

One example, he said, was the upgrading of the crematorium in Section 51A in 2012, which saw the council fork out RM1.3 million for two electric burners, but only one could be used at a time because of wiring issues.

Other requests included an allocation of RM3 million to upgrade each wet market in PJ and RM1 million to renovate each food court, as well as increased allocation for garbage collection in People’s Housing Projects (PPRs).

FMT’s attempts to reach Azizi for comment were unsuccessful.