Only 53 responded to MBPJ’s budget survey

City council food courts will be well patronised if they are upgraded and maintained well. – Filepic

Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) received only 53 responses from ratepayers when an online survey was carried out on its 2022 budget.

The survey, held from July 15 to Aug 1, was conducted to get feedback from residents on how best the council could serve them with its budget for next year.

From the survey, there were 22 requests for improvements to public amenities and infrastructure, while 13 responses were related to the social economic development of the B40 and urban poor group.

Feedback from the rest were regarding public cleanliness and the circular economy as well as requests for more CCTV cameras in public places, improvements in open spaces, lifelong learning activities and town planning.

During a recent MBPJ full board meeting, Petaling Jaya acting deputy mayor Sharipah Marhaini Syed Ali said the city council would share the feedback with Petaling Jaya folk, leaders of residents associations and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at a town hall session on Sept 14.

MyPJ (a coalition of residents groups and NGOs in Petaling Jaya) chairman Jeffrey Phang said the low number of online responses for the budget was a poor show.

He, however, said many people, including him, felt let down with the budget planned each year because the city council had yet to come up with a more efficient system.

“We, the residents leaders, have always requested for the council to be more specific with its budget planning.

“We want to know the income and planned expenditure.

“Where is the mid-term budget review that we have been requesting for since 2008?” he asked, adding that they had also requested for an audit committee with independent people overseeing it.

“Any accountant will agree that there must be a budget calendar on how money is to be spent and we want the council to have one and show it to the public.

“A lot of decisions were made without looking at the bigger picture,” said Phang, citing cases where new incinerators purchased for a council crematorium could not support the power voltage and air-conditioners at a council hall in Bandar Utama could not be utilised because the existing power supply was not sufficient.

“In these circumstances, the money spent could not provide the service intended because of other issues.

“However this could have been avoided with better planning.”

He said the council should also be transparent on how it decided to distribute food aid to the poor through its food aid programme, to enable better coordination with the NGO.

“We don’t know who the council food aid recipients are.

“We do not want to overlap and give aid to the same people.

“The council must work with the NGO too,” said Phang.

Long-time Petaling Jaya resident U. Maniam said MBPJ had to be more proactive in rolling out plans related to budget.

There were no assessment notices sent to houseowners as the council had shifted to an online platform, he said.

“The online payment system is not user-friendly for seniors like me.

“We need a reminder to pay on time and I suggest that the council give residents rebates if they pay upfront for the entire year or even the following years,” he said.

Suggesting that MBPJ should provide value-for-money services, he said it could take the lead by providing affordable veterinary care for animals, including spaying at a nominal rate.

He also echoed the need for a budget calendar and long-term plans as well as for MBPJ to take advantage of talents in the city to come up with a better budget.

“There are many retired accountants in Petaling Jaya who will gladly share their wisdom.

“They should be invited to these pre-budget meetings to give their views.

“Many will do it for free as they are stakeholders and want to retire here,” Maniam added.

Bandar Utama Residents Association chairman Syed Mohd Taufik suggested that at least two council officers be trained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

“Petaling Jaya City Council has one of the largest budgets in the country after Kuala Lumpur City Hall and needs to be careful with its spending as well as how tenders are given out.

“Having trained officers would ensure no discrepancies in dealing with public money,” he said, suggesting that whistleblowers from the city council be rewarded or promoted.

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