MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Monday, June 28, 2010

Privatising rubbish collection: Who benefits?

(© bucklava | Flickr)

(© bucklava | Flickr)

THE federal government wants to privatise rubbish removal services under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) and have local councils focus purely on enforcement. Technically, the federal government cannot legally force a local government to enter into a privatisation contract. A contract’s signatories would have to be representatives from the government entering the contract itself.

However, one way to compel privatisation of a service would be through Section 165 of theLocal Government Act. This section states that the state authority, also known as the state exco, may transfer a local authority’s function to the state’s chief minister or menteri besar. This can be done if the state deems that such a function would be in the public’s interest. However, such a transfer can only be done by a gazetted order. The order must also be presented to the state’s legislative assembly and will continue to be in force unless the state assembly annuls it.

This means that the only way to take away a local council’s power from performing its functions — one of which is rubbish removal — is through the state government’s direct and publicly announced (via gazette) intervention.

Making the impossible possible

Of course, politicians make a habit of making the impossible legally possible, with all the right packaging attached to it.

Back in 2007, Parliament passed the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act. This essentially allows the federal government to privatise rubbish removal services with the option to bill the house owner, the occupier, the local authority, or any other person to whom the services are provided.

Simplified diagram of what could happen (picture of woman thinking © Klearchos Kapoutsis | Flickr)

Simplified diagram of what could happen (picture of woman thinking © Klearchos Kapoutsis | Flickr)

Since a house owner already pays assessment tax to the local council, and since it is the local council’s function to provide rubbish removal services, it is most likely that the federal government would bill the local council for the services.

Now, there is a clause at the introduction of the Act that states that the law would only come into affect when the minister in charge of solid waste management (presently under the Housing and Local Government Ministry) publishes the order in a gazette.

I suspect the only reason this law wasn’t implemented straightaway was due to the logistical nightmare of taking over rubbish removal services from all local councils. However, we must also realise that the federal government has had three years to put in place the necessary framework to carry out the privatisation exercise.


So, now that we have an inkling of how the federal government may be implementing the privatisation of rubbish removal services, let’s look at the practicality of the privatised system.

The contractor providing the rubbish removal services signs their contract with the federal government. The local council, however, is tasked with paying the contractor whereas ratepayers are the consumers of the service.

Residents will never see this layer of bureaucracy nor will they care if their complaints to the local council are misdirected since the service providers are not answerable to the local council.

Additionally, the local council will probably be required to pay a lump sum figure without being able to deduct payment for services not rendered, since the contract is between the federal government and the contractor.


Of course, the local council could just as easily request for a license to be issued to it to continue having the rights to manage its own rubbish removal services.

Except that Section 70 of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act allows for the federal government to take over the entire operations of a license holder if it deems it necessary.

That, of course, is another matter entirely and totally unrelated to the issue of the federal government’s intention of privatising rubbish removal services under the 10MP. Or is it?

MBPJ councillor KW Mak must emphasise the fact that he is not trained as a lawyer but as a reporter, and that his opinion about privatising waste collection is just that — an opinion. He does believe, however, that all councillors should read up on the laws that affect local councils. This would be befitting of a councillor’s oath upon taking office to “duly and faithfully fulfil the duties thereof according to the best of my judgement and ability.” Courtesy of Nut Graph.

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