by Terence Fernandez

PETALING JAYA (Sept 28, 2009) : Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), which in recent times has been accused of being a law unto itself, will soon have its wings clipped.

PEMUDAH, the Special Task Force to Facilitate Business set up by the Prime Minister one-and-a-half years ago, has “adopted” DBKL to ensure it toes the line in discharging its duties and dealing with the public.

In a statement today, the Task Force said the “adoption”, which takes immediate effect is “to ensure that DBKL becomes more customer-friendly and its service delivery improved”.

It is understood that the high-powered Task Force, headed by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan had resorted to getting the Prime Minister’s approval to have DBKL come under PEMUDAH’s purview following many complaints and accusations against the local authority.

These include accusations of selective persecution where traders in DAP-controlled Bukit Bintang had claimed of victimisation for their political leanings following a series of raids just after the general election, where all but one of the 12 parliamentary seats in Kuala Lumpur went to the opposition.

Poor municipal services, haphazard planning and lax enforcement in other areas also stacked highly against DBKL.

However the major complaint of late has been at how City Hall has been handling the City Plan 2020, where serious flaws were detected in the draft and residents discovering that land which had been earmarked as public amenities or green lung have been rezoned as commercial. No prior consultation with affected groups and residents was done for the rezoning of these parcels of land.

Other matters ratepayers in Kuala Lumpur have taken issue with pertaining to the City Plan are insufficient objection periods, meetings held on weekdays and in the last minute, and the limited number of people allowed to raise objections.

Following several discussions – some heated – between Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Abd Hakim Borhan and PEMUDAH members which include Mohd Sidek and Housing and Local Government Ministry secretary-general Datuk Ahmad Fuad Ismail, PEMUDAH had decided in a meeting on July 31 that the only way for DBKL to improve its image is for PEMUDAH to breathe down its neck.

In today’s statement, Mohd Sidek said a special Focus Group headed by Federal Territory Ministry secretary-general Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib will be established to work with DBKL in addressing specific issues of service delivery.

Abd Hakim and the private sector members of PEMUDAH will sit in the Focus Group.

“PEMUDAH will have DBKL as a permanent agenda in its monthly meetings, with the Mayor making regular progress reports,” Mohd Sidek said.

He added that PEMUDAH had made significant strides in improving the public service delivery and its “adoption” of DBKL was done in this context.

In a recent interview with theSun, Mohd Sidek and PEMUDAH co-chair Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon said the issue of DBKL had come up repeatedly in PEMUDAH meetings and the election result was an indication of the people’s feelings towards the local authority.

“We are putting a lot of emphasis on City Hall to improve,” Yong had said.

Last year, PEMUDAH adopted the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) – widely regarded as the worst local authority in the country – following mounting complaints of inefficiency and even abuse of power and corruption.

While counter services have improved due to spot checks conducted by Mohd Sidek and Yong, voters had made PEMUDAH’s job a lot easier by throwing out some of the assemblymen accused of trying to influence the council in the awarding of contracts and leasing of land, in the general election.

“MPAJ is a lot better now,” Mohd Sidek had said