THE Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) recently invited residents and non-governmental organisations to the annual budget dialogue session, which will be held today.
This annual invitation is to provide MBPJ stakeholders with an opportunity to provide feedback on the needs of the city and the amount needed to implement them the following year, in this case in 2014.
Those not identified in the budget will not be given priority or not carried out at all by MBPJ.
However, the half-day dialogue session cannot possibly help identify what the city needs.
This is especially so when the urban poor, the elderly and the disabled community are not included in the dialogue.
The sessions mainly comprise residents associations and Rukun Tetangga leaders.
The budget process adopted by MBPJ does not fully follow the process that is encouraged by the accountancy profession.
The budget figures are set through “incremental” estimations without going through the more accurate “zero-based” bud-geting process which requires a breakdown of all the main category of expenses.
Effectively, this means adding a percentage to last year’s budget to cater to increased needs and inflation.
During implementation, this will cause problems as it becomes difficult to decide which community projects are more urgent and could result in more vocal communities being given priority.
It is also important that budget spending is monitored. This calls for transparency and for real-time accounting reports that identifies the budgeted amount with the actual amount.
The summary of this year’s spending against the current year budget should be made available to all stakeholders attending this dialogue session. Unfortunately, in the past, the stakeholders were made to discuss small issues only while the bigger issues were kept out. This is not fair and not called public participation.
A structural change to set up a Budget Monitoring Committee was proposed at last year’s budget dialogue by councillor Derek Fernandez.
This was adopted by the council then under the leadership of former mayor Datuk Mohamad Roslan Sakiman. Despite the matter being raised during various council meetings, MBPJ has resisted the setting up of this committee.
If today’s budget dialogue is to serve its function of getting view points from residents, MBPJ must ensure that all stakeholders attending the meeting receive the following:
·Statement of Accounts — Actual year-to-date expenditure for 2013 against the full budget figure for 2013 by major category of expenditure
·Budget Theme for 2014. (Last Year was “Caring Petaling Jaya”)
·Reasons why the Budget Monitoring Committee passed by council in 2013 has not been implemented
·Basic breakdown of all major category of expenses proposed for 2014
JEFFREY FK PHANG
Friends of Kota Damansara chairman