The idea that any Tom, Dick and Harry can soon apply for government funding to repair potholes or fix blocked drains should fill most people with dread.
This is what economy minister Rafizi Ramli has planned when he announced on June 1 that the public can apply directly to his ministry for allocations to undertake small projects.
Rafizi’s proposal was to resolve various issues such as fixing clogged drains or repairing potholes quickly, without being bogged down by endless red tape.
According to the minister, one aim of the federal government was to “democratise small allocations” for the rakyat.
In trying to sell his idea to the rakyat, Rafizi had drawn upon his experience as an elected representative in which he claimed that he was responsible for doing things like unblocking drains among other things. He also mentioned the layers of bureaucracy which delayed the implementation of various projects.
There are several things wrong with Rafizi’s proposal and one wonders if this seemingly knee-jerk reaction by the economy ministry has been properly thought through.
Did his ministry either consult or get the backing of key people in the relevant areas, such as civil engineers, quantity surveyors, councillors, and various other contractors?
We pay the local authority (our council) a local tax to cover local services such as maintaining local roads (not the highway), drains, rubbish collection and maintaining local parks.
Taking potholes as an example, the current trend would be to lodge a complaint about the condition of the road to the local council, so that they can initiate the process for the road to be repaired. An approved contractor, engaged by the council usually by a tender process, will then repair the road.
From what Rafizi has intimated, the repairs are taking too long because of bureaucracy.
If individuals can repair roads, will that person qualify for a reduction in his or her local government tax (“cukai taksiran” or “cukai pintu”)?
If everyone decided to undertake their own road maintenance or unblock clogged drains, what is the function of the local council? Will it become obsolete?
For some people, getting rid of certain Majlis Bandaraya may not be such a bad idea after all. These people claim that their complaints to the local council often fall on deaf ears.
Rafizi said that as an elected representative, he was forced to do jobs like unblocking drains.
An MP is not supposed to do the jobs which the government-approved contractor, local councillor and civil servant should be doing. This means that the civil servants and assemblyman for the area were not performing, or underperforming.
Where is the bottleneck in the system and how about fixing the laborious bureaucracy, instead of getting individuals to do their own repairs? Get rid of deadwood and incompetent civil servants/workers which bog down the system.
The job of an MP is to implement policies and make our lives better. He is not the mandor (supervisor) to fix drains.
Any repair must be done by a competent person who knows what he is doing. He will need to know the root cause of the fault before he starts the repair work. A pothole caused by water damage is different compared with a road surface that had been damaged by the daily wear and tear of heavy, overloaded lorries.
What if the repair is not up to the minimum standards required? What if shoddy materials were used to reduce costs? What if the person takes shortcuts to maximise profits? Who will gauge if the repair is viable and will last for an appreciable length of time?
What if the completed job is not up to scratch and despite the repair, a road user is injured and is maimed, or is killed? Is the person who performed the repair, covered by workplace insurance?
What if the council official who inspects the repair had closed one eye because he had been bribed to lie and say that the shoddy repair was a job well done?
Having local council elections is one way the rakyat can have a greater say in how local governments are run.
More importantly, when will the economy ministry come up with solutions to help the rakyat weather the economic storm and cost of living crisis?
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.