Probe ‘abuse of power’ in Sabah’s town planning authority, urges activist

Sandakan is one of the towns in Sabah said to have lost out due to delays in approving development projects. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: A veteran consumer activist here has called on the authorities to investigate alleged mismanagement and power abuse in the Sabah Central Board.

Patrick Sindu said the authorities at the state and federal levels should look into how the board, which approves development plans (DPs) in Sabah, conducts its affairs.

He claimed the delay in approvals of DPs had been going on for some time, adding this was one reason for the price of properties, particularly houses, skyrocketing in Sabah.

“There is a lot of red tape and politicians have also interfered in decisions previously.

“This system is not transparent and open to corruption. I don’t know how the new government handles it now but they must be transparent and do away with the old system.

“This is one of the reasons why investors, including foreign ones, think twice about pumping money into Sabah,” Sindu told FMT.

He was commenting on a news report that the central board, which is under the Sabah Town and Regional Planning Department, was responsible for slowing down many development projects in Sabah.

The news report, quoting developers, including from the Sabah Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Shareda), alleged the board was delaying approval or cancelling DPs due to a powerful senior figure in the department.

These delays are said to have caused substantial losses to developers who tend to pass on costs to buyers.

The developers also supported the disbanding of the board. They want the power to approve projects to be returned to the local governments.

Consumer activist Patrick Sindu.

Sindu said it was illogical to delay a DP for a long time, adding some needed attention right away.

“You can’t prolong approval. It is just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ after the technical review. Should only take a year at most, not years.

“I was made to understand there were development plans for housing and industries in Tawau, Sandakan and in Kota Kinabalu where the investors got fed up over the long delays and left,” he said.

‘Faster system’

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal had said last year that he wanted to introduce a faster system to approve projects in Sabah.

He also said the government was mulling the possibility of dismantling the central board. However, nothing has been done so far.

During the state-level Chinese New Year celebrations here today, Shafie said he wanted to encourage investments and development in Sabah by reducing red tape.

Speaking to an audience that included business leaders, he said those who encounter problems in obtaining DP approvals can meet him at his office.

“If there’s a delay, you tell me. If they (the government agencies) are late in approving your projects, come to my office.

“We need the investments and we need the business to create more job opportunities,” he said.

The Barisan Nasional government had previously centralised the approvals through the central board, contending that local governments responsible for processing and approving development projects had a poor system.