There is a disturbing news in The Malay Mail today.
Nazri will head Public Transport Commission
KUALA LUMPUR: The soon-to-be-formed Public Transport Commission comes under the responsibility of the Prime Minister.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz (pic) yesterday said this was stated in the Land Transport Bill 2010 and Land Public Transport Commission Bill 2010, approved in Parliament during its last session.
“Both bills state the Prime Minister is responsible. He has informed me I will be in charge of the commission when it is formed.”
His appointment, which Nazri said was conveyed to him by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak last year, was fair as he oversees the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB), which will be dissolved once the new commission begins operations on June 1.
Responding to public transport bodies reportedly not in favour of politicians being in charge of the new public transport commission, Nazri said: “Under the Acts, such commissions will always be under a Minister.”
He said public transport operators and nongovernmental organisations which do not wish him to be involved in the new commission should work towards amending the two Acts “They would have to amend the Acts or remove the Prime Minister’s name from the Acts. I have no problem with this. It is a heavy responsibility,” he said, as the new commission would not only take over the responsibilities of the CVLB but also oversee rail transport and tour buses.
The new commission will consolidate the various public transportation departments and authorities.
“When all parties are under one commission, it will be easier to plan,” Nazri said.
As for the public transport operators associations’ suggesting the new commission take on representatives from transport NGOs as well as those with industry experience, Nazri said the commissioners had yet to be selected.
He said the commissioners would be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The names of the commissioners will be released next month.
Public transport operators had reportedly felt the new commission should function independently of political interferences, similar to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk S. K. Devamany had also reportedly said last December that the new commission could fall under his purview.
When contacted yesterday, Devamany said transport operators have no need for concern as the two bills include mechanisms to serve as check and balance to ensure transparency, such as a clear “modus operandi” on planning, monitoring and budgeting.
He said the bills, initially tabled by the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, accorded for avenues to address complaints and garner public feedback, including tribunals and forums.
“The commission board is answerable to the Prime Minister’s Department,” said Devamany, adding the move should instead be welcomed.
He suggested discussions with public transport operators to create more understanding on the role of the new commission.
Usage of public transportation among Malaysians, Devamany said, has seen a reduction from 25 per cent to a mere 12 per cent.
“We need to make public transportation cheaper, faster, more comfortable and more timely.”
Why do I find the news above disturbing?
Back in November 2008, I wrote an article about the problems and issues facing the public transportation system here in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley.
A particular paragraph read:
The industry need to be revamped as a whole. For a start, there is a need to centralise the governing authority of public transportation under one body. There is an initiative to do this right now. However, a body without the relevant power to deliberate decisions will only be reduced as a token entity in the end. Furthermore, this body must be run by experts; not by politicians whom may be blinded with political expediency.
Let’s deal with the first issue; announcing something which the Prime Minister has not even made public yet.
In a Malay proverb, we call it – “belum duduk, sudah berlunjur”
Simply means, doing something without following proper procedures or doing something prematurely. In other words, you cornered your boss into a difficult decision unnecessarily. There are protocols that need to adhere too. In cases like this, there is a severe lack of class when Nazri tries to pre-empt the Prime Minister’s authority.
Secondly, the Commission, which will be called Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam DiRaja (“SPAD”), has a huge and wide supervisory role for our public transportation system. Nazri claimed that he should be in charge of SPAD by virtue of being the overseer of CVLB. This is quite misleading because CVLB only deals with licensing.
SPAD on the other hand, is a different ballgame altogether. God forbid should he wanted to put Datuk Halimah Mohd Sadique as the Chairman of SPAD. I sincerely think that handling SPAD will be beyond her expertise. And this is not because she is a woman.
We currently have DBKL, the local councils, JPJ, the police force, Puspakom, Transport Ministry, Finance Ministry, CVLB etc (some say up to 14 bodies) governing the public transportation system in the Klang Valley itself. SPAD aims to takeover all the relevant responsibilities from all those individual bodies and merge them under one body.
Like I said earlier, we need experts to run SPAD.
SPAD will have enormous powers i.e., issuing transport licenses, determining public transport routes, budgets, contractors, LRT development etc.
It is certainly not a good governance practice to have politicians to helm SPAD on day to day basis. Naturally, rent seeking politics will permeate within SPAD and the problems plaguing our public transportation system will continue.
I sincerely hope the Prime Minister will think carefully about this particular issue. As what can be read in my previous article about public transportation, the problem is not small. It is costing the government billions of ringgit.
I sure do not want to see it goes down the drain if it is being headed by an underperformer like Nazri.