WHILE the new prime minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is raising the bar in terms of dealing with pressing national issues, it is also important to look into matters that are peculiar to urban and semi-urban dwellers.

The best way to do this is to constantly monitor the operations of local councils and have them quickly address all shortcomings.

Currently, there are a total of 155 local authorities, consisting of 19 city councils, 39 municipal councils and 92 district councils. These local authorities are jointly responsible for providing and maintaining a host of services, including health, social, waste disposal, recycling and collection, trading standards, roads and transportation, housing, safety and health.

There have been a number of issues that have been cropping up on a regular basis. There is the problem of poor drainage and maintenance systems leading to frequent flash floods, the cumulative effect of which caused huge losses to the people and the nation.

Aren’t local authorities responsible for patching up potholes that frequently appear on roads resulting in road accidents involving motorcyclists. But the poor response of the local authorities to this issue has led to some people taking the initiative to repair the roads themselves.

Similarly, there are frequent reports of broken road curbs and drains, including missing drain covers. These pose real threats to the safety of the public.

We frequently read in the media about badly maintained public facilities, frequent accidents involving construction workers and of traffic hazards on the roads, including traffic obstruction due to illegal parking. But unfortunately, not all these issues are currently receiving the attention and resources they deserve.

There also seems to be a poor maintenance culture among most local councils, resulting in great inconvenience to the public.

Are the councils hampered by a lack of budget allocation, manpower or resources or resolve? Do they lack visionary leadership or strategic plans?

In the end, it all boils down to the question of service delivery, work commitment and integrity. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all local authorities are free from all forms of corruption, and practise integrity at all levels.

The councils should have a close relationship with NGOs, business communities and the public to deal with continuous issues and challenges. Whatever the cause, the effect is often borne by the tax-paying public, who deserve better.

Malaysian taxpayers also want to see more work being done because they wish to live in a safe and healthy environment, which are essential requisites for maintaining a good quality of life.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye

Kuala Lumpur