Robotic application of operating procedures

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 26 Sep 2019

I AM highlighting what is probably a common situation experienced by many in the course of dealing with counter staff particularly in government offices. It indeed tests one’s logic and patience.

Taking advantage of a special discount offer, I went to Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) to pay an outstanding fine for illegal parking. After driving around and finding no vacant space, I parked my car at the motorcycle lots.

MBPJ was off-line that day so customers were told to go to Menara MBPJ to make their payments. After paying the fine, I went back to my car and found a summons for illegal parking stuck on the windscreen. Feeling very unhappy with this double misfortune, I drove around to find parking space. I ended up in a private parking facility nearby. After parking, I joined the queue to settle the freshly minted summons.

When it was my turn, I was told to pay RM30 instead of the discounted amount of RM20. I tried to reason with the counter staff but all she said was, “The system says so.” I argued that since MBPJ is willing to offer a discount to summonses issued months ago, why is it not according the same on a summons issued just an hour previously. She then directed me to go to the second floor to speak to an officer there. I went and after reasoning with the officer, I was asked to pay RM10, which I happily paid.

It baffles me that discounts are offered on old summonses but not on new ones. In the first place, the discount offer was made to encourage more people to pay up. In short, the offer is nothing more than an incentive to achieve a win-win outcome for both parties. And here, a person who comes to settle a fresh summons immediately is charged the full amount. It simply does not compute!

Systems and standard operating procedures (SOPs) are formulated by human beings and are meant

to speed up work under normal circumstances. Such SOPs should not be made by us to bind us. I see the situation as follows: If the employee was instructed to follow the system rigidly, she cannot be faulted. However, if she had been told to use her discretion in certain cases, then following the system rigidly boils down to taking the easy way out.

If all systems are meant to be followed strictly, then I would suggest replacing all staff with payment kiosks. The department or council would then gain huge savings in the long run, as there would be no salaries, sick leave, pension or EPF contributions to deal with.

I remember a very senior former government officer telling his staff, “Sistem ini manusia yang buat, bukan Tuhan yang menentukan. Apa salahnya kita cuba cari penyelesaian and bantu kes ini (The system is man-made and not decided by God. So what’s wrong with trying to find a solution and help in this case?)”

YOW LOP SIAW , Petaling Jaya

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