By A. Jeyaraj
The swearing-in ceremony of the Ipoh City Council councillors was reported in the New Straits Times as “ENCORE: State councillors re-appointed in the hope that they would again deliver excellent results”.
Dato’ Dr Mah Hang Soon, state local government committee chairman, said that the state was satisfied with their work and so they were re-appointed. No survey was carried out among the residents on the performance of the councillors. What criteria did Dr Mah use to claim that all the councillors have done well?
I receive many calls from residents complaining about their problems mainly with clogged and broken drains, grass cutting and garbage. I always tell them to contact their councillor first. Many residents do not know who their councillor is. Those who know inform that it is difficult to contact the councillor and even if they do make contact, the person is too busy to attend to their problems. That is the reason they call me.
I live in Zone 8 which comprises Lim Garden, Merdeka Garden, Cherry Park and Tembok and am lucky to have Dato’ Daniel Tay Kwan Hui as my councillor. He is a role model for councillors and others should emulate him. Upon being appointed as a councillor in 2009, he arranged for a meeting with the representatives of the residents at MBI during which staff of MBI were present. Daniel Tay introduced MBI staff and told the representatives to contact them if they have any problems. He divided the zone into four sub-zones and visited residents of each zone. He and MBI staff personally saw the problem areas and corrective actions were taken. Daniel Tay can be easily contacted and is willing to help.
K. Nathan, a businessman who lives in First Garden said that the residents are disappointed with the services provided by their councillor. Nathan said that in mid September last year, major drainage work was carried out at Lebuh Taman Pertama. The job was abandoned after two weeks due to technical problems. The roads were dug up and the contractor did not close the trenches he had dug. No work was done for two months and the place was flooded during rain. It was not safe to use the roads. The residents were frustrated and as a last resort Nathan contacted the Menteri Besar and requested him to help out. Finally the job was completed in about a week at the end of December. The residents feel that the councillor had failed in his duties for not taking action.
When contacted, Liew See Fan, councillor for First Garden said that he is familiar with the project which was to upgrade the drains to prevent flooding. He knew that the work was stopped due to technical problems faced with underground water pipes and electrical cables. However, he was not aware that the contractor did not cover up the trenches and fill up the pot holes which were his responsibility. He was in fact discussing with the engineering department at MBI about how to solve the problem as quickly as possible. He regrets that the residents were not informed of the problem. He added that residents can always contact him for assistance.
In Penang several civil societies organised a Know Your Councillor campaign, whose purpose was to enable Penangites to judge for themselves whether their councillors were up to the mark. The councillors were given a questionnaire which required them to list three of their major achievements for last year and to give three of their main goals for this year if they were re-appointed and reason for re-appointment.
When I googled “report card for local councillors”, I found that many local councils in other countries assess the performance of their councillors annually. Their grades are available online with their achievements and failures.
Councillors are seen by rate-payers as the first line of access to the local government. They are expected to serve the interests of the ratepayers. As such, there should be more checks and balances and they must decide without fear or favour in the decisions of the committees they sit on. They have to decide what is in the public interest amidst a range of conflicting issues and views. They must work to improve the quality of life for the people and meet regularly with residents’ committee members.
It is time for NGOs in Ipoh to come together and carry out a similar survey. Let the residents judge the performance of the councillors.