Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Local Authorities - Unaccountable, Unelected, Unwanted.

I was just going through a report in the papers - 'Bankrupt Datuk loses his post as MPPP councillor'. This gentleman is an UMNO branch chairman. I wonder what qualifications he has or had to be made a councillor in the first place. The only one I can think of is his political connections, the same one that probably got him the datukship as well.

It is ironic that in a country which claims to be democratic, there are these islands of despotic rule known as local authorities. These are akin to fiefdoms of yore where one dominant person or group exercises control. They do not depend on, care for the opinion of and are not accountable to the people they serve. If by a miracle, local authorities did not exist any longer, no one would be more happy and ecstatic than the Malaysian public; for such is the irrelevance of and the dislike for these mini-dictatorships.

Who appoints these councillors and from out of which part of the woodwork do they come from? Local authorities for all intents and purposes are appointed by the respective state governments. These are not actually appointments in the original sense of the word but rewards. For what? Probably for 'work' done elsewhere - hatchet jobs, carrying the boss' briefcase among other things, 'help' rendered during last elections etc. etc. Basically these are inconsequential persons who have no qualifications for a job that does not require qualifications! Most of the Malay councillors are either lower-rung UMNO leaders or front men for the higher placed ones. The same applies for the non-Malays too.

In the name of the state government it is the Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers who ultimately decide who is in or out of these local authorities. However they will never take the credit for that directly; makes it easier to retreat and blame or punish someone else if the council goofs up.These MBs and CMs are very much in the know of what transpires in these councils but will feign total ignorance when caught with their pants down.There is a lot of money to be made in local authorities and where there is money there will be corruption.

Read what the Auditor-General has to say on this: Financial malpractice are rife at local authority level where small-scale contracts are given out directly to contractors without any tendering process by the local councils, Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang revealed, Monday. Based on the department's study, he said the most common abuse was in the landscaping projects "whereby the same landscape projects have been done over and over again, while in other places none at all." Another area opened to abuse has been contracts to collect garbage, he said at the two-day national workshop on "Preventing Corruption in Public Procurement: Capacity Building and Networking for Civil Society and Local Government."

For political reasons the Federal government is reluctant to have directly elected local councils - they are so worried that the DAP may take control of a few and show the nation how effective local councils can be. Apart from this and rewarding some low-grade party underlings there is no other logical reason for this antipathy towards direct elections. And who suffers? We, the average Joe on the streets of our townships. As far as the government is concerned they all echo those famous words of the Selangor Mentri Besar who after viewing the rape of a green area in his state said - "Semuanya OK!!"


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3:15 AM GMT+8  

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