Sabah is losing billion$: Harris
Published on: Monday, September 23, 2019
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KOTA KINABALU: Sabahans are losing billions yearly due to the Government’s poor delivery system, according to former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Mohd Salleh (pic). 

He said the business community, plantations and entrepreneurs in Sabah, and Sabahans in general, have suffered for years due to the poor delivery systems of both the Federal and State Governments.

“Minor issues or decisions take weeks and months to resolve, leading to losses amounting to billions every year for businesses and ordinary Sabahans.

“Some years ago, I pointed out these difficulties and suggested how these sufferings can be solved overnight by those in authority. It appears that none of the Sabah leaders were interested to improve the Government’s delivery system for businesses and Sabahans in general. 

“This is despite the fact that Sabahans now have more political masters than in any of the preceding State Governments. State political masters are also in control in a number of Federal departments and agencies and can give directives within their authority without requiring changes in law or policy. 

“The Federal Secretary whose responsibility is to ensure the smooth running of Federal departments and agencies, also did nothing,” he claimed, in a statement.

He cited many examples of departments and agencies creating hardships by delaying approval for simple issues or matters. For example, the Immigration Department should be able to issue approvals for landing permits within three days at most. Instead they take weeks or months, thereby causing economic losses to both employers and employees and Sabah in general. 

“In the past a worker can remain working while his work permit was being processed, no loss to both employers and employees. However, this fair and just procedure was changed to that of the workers must not be in the country. In Sabah’s case most workers will wait at Nunukan for the re-issue of their work permit. This is a loss to both employers and employees.

“Another example is the Land and Survey Office which will take up to six months just to approve a simple removal pass for earthworks. Applicants normally submit complete papers as required to the Assistant Collector of Land Revenue who is authorised to approve and issue the removal pass.

“It is not understood why approvals that should be given within a day or two have to take weeks and months. The approving officer or desk officer has a computer on his/her desk, and therefore should easily have access to all information as required by standard operating procedures. Unfortunately, these desk officers take their time as there is no political masters or Federal Secretary to watch over their work. This has been going on for years. Nobody cares. 

“There are of course some exceptions. I have been told that the Ranau Land and Survey Office is very efficient; files from old cases of land applications can be retrieved within minutes and processed,” he said.

Harris said another problem that hampers efficiency is that Sabah is administered by both Federal and State governments, adding the departments and agencies are run by civil servants who only work about six hours a day out of the eight hours they are supposed to. 

“As required, civil servants will come to the office at 8am and ‘clock in’ and then disappear to the canteen for coffee, a second round of breakfast and ‘chit chat’ until 10am. Civil servants doing field visits often only work until 11am and go home straight after. 

“There are additional hindrances to progress when it comes to Federal departments and agencies in Sabah as most of their heads are from Malaya. There are always meetings at Putrajaya. The meeting may only be for half-an-hour, but the head will be absent from Sabah for three days – one day at Putrajaya for the meeting, another to balik kampong and one day to return to Sabah. (In the meantime) the deputy head is not authorised to approve or sign on behalf of number one,” he said.  

Harris said the solution to speed up the Government’s delivery system is very simple. Firstly, ensure civil servants work eight hours a day and, secondly, fix time lines between submissions and approvals as was done during the Berjaya government. 

“For example, the approval for ‘landing permit’ for Indonesian workers must be approved and issued within three days.

The removal pass for earthworks can also be approved and issued within three days,” he said. 

He said as Malaysians generally cook breakfast for the whole family very early in the morning, including for children before going to school, it is not understood why civil servants in Malaysia need to have breakfast twice a day, unlike Indonesians who only have breakfast once.  

“All canteens in government offices should be closed until 10am. This is to avoid the double breakfast habit, one at home and another at the canteen that waste two hours of the day, thereby incurring additional expense for the office.  

“For over a hundred years fully developed and wealthy countries such as England and Australia do not have canteens in their government office buildings. At about 10.30am a lady with a trolley full of food and drinks will go round the office serving the officers. The officers do not leave their desk and are paid bonuses for productivity and performance.

“It is hoped that both Federal and State Government delivery systems be improved immediately by those in authority. The fixing of time lines for all approvals do not require amendment to any law or policy. It is just an administrative matter.

“With regard to meals for school children, I have written to the Education Minister to suggest that schoolchildren not be given breakfast as they will have had some food at home as is custom. No Malaysian parents will tell their children – do not join us to eat as you will have breakfast at school – “duduk duduk sahaja (just sitting around)”, it would be more logical to serve them an early lunch at 11.30am.  

“By the way, based on news reports, a number of foreign investors are keen to invest in Sabah. This included a Korean company that was announced and published in the Daily Express that had intended to invest in Sabah but unfortunately, soon after, the Korean company announced it decided to invest in Johor instead. 

“Sabah leaders must acknowledge that Singapore, Johor and Selangor Governments are very efficient; approvals can be had within days. The decision by the Korean Company to abort investing in Sabah in favour of Johor was reported by the Daily Express.

“It is understood that not only potential foreign Investors shy away, even Malaysian public-listed companies who have been in Sabah for years and have land banks are selling to move back to Malaya. It is acknowledged that delays and poor delivery systems are the main reason,” said Harris.

He further noted that none of the elected representatives – members of State Legislative Assembly and Members of Parliament ever bothered to look at the billions in loses, hardship and suffering it causes. 

“The only prominent reason is that Sabah is traditionally and customarily known as ‘Tapai’ country, as such everything need fermenting including government approvals.  Elected representatives do not want to offend Sabahans particularly the natives bypassing the fermenting process.

“Tun Dr Mahathir has acknowledged that both Vietnam and Indonesia has overtaken Malaysia economically...we must buck up before it is too late,” he warned. 


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