Letter to editor
MINISTRIES are set up to govern, regulate and contribute to the smooth running and development of our country. If so, the success or failure of various government agencies could be gauged by the health of sectors under their charge.
Hence, they must carry out both promotional and enforcement exercises regularly and effectively. Their policies and activities ought to be publicised to facilitate legitimate businesses to thrive, and to deter shady dealings and illicit trade.
While the types of promotions may vary greatly, enforcements could only be carried out as stipulated under the law and summonses issued based on specific sections under acts or enactments. If compoundable, offenders would rather pay a lighter fine than contest in court.
When caught, offenders are likely to deny they were in the wrong and hope to be let off, failing which they would attempt to prevent summonses from being issued by suggesting on-the-spot settlement or wait for the enforcement officer to state an amount and then try to reduce it.
This is because integrity is lacking in our society and offenders prefer to pay less and avoid the inconvenience of having to settle compound fines later. For traffic offences, the maximum compoundable fine is RM300 but the standardised rates for many violations are lower.
However, the police officer could imply that the fine is RM300 which is normal in any ‘seller-buyer’ negotiation with sellers hoping to get the highest possible price and buyers trying to pay the least. Money change hands when both sides agreed to an amount.
The many motivations of enforcement officers include holding on to their jobs and pensions, carrying out assignments in special operations or on patrol duty, and issuing summonses to meet or exceed a quota. Such encounters also present opportunities to line one’s pockets.
But corruption is unlikely to happen if enforcement officers and offenders do not meet physically. This may explain why the various agencies are not keen to carry out enforcements extensively using video recordings which have proven to be effective in many countries.
At a public forum on road safety in 2003, I mooted the concept of “privatised massive surveillance” and was widely reported. I proposed that private companies be appointed to assist enforcement agencies in surveillance to deter traffic offences and street crimes.
The concessionaires are to hire and train camera crews and station them at strategic spots at city streets, busy roads and along highways. They are to wear bright uniforms and be highly visible as a deterrence – and not hide behind pillars to record as much offences as possible.
The videos are to be submitted to the respective enforcement agencies for summonses to be issued and concessionaires paid accordingly. In this way, the government does not have to spend a single sen and the agencies do not have to wait until there is adequate funding.
The fines collected would add substantially to the government’s coffer and large number of retired but relatively young soldiers could be gainfully employed as camera crews nationwide by the concessionaires.
If implemented 20 years ago, it would have saved thousands of lives and prevented countless number of injuries from road accidents and deterred many snatch thefts, making our streets safer. It would have also collected billions of ringgit in fines for driving and parking offences.
But our ministries and agencies were more interested in receiving additional allocations and spent them all to justify asking for more. Apart from corruption, many ministries are riddled with leakages, pilferages and wastages, as reported by the Auditor General every year.
Soon after the Automated Enforcement System (AES) was introduced on Sept 22, 2012, I pointed out that the first 14 cameras deployed captured 63,558 offences within the first eight days. This worked out to 567 offences per day for each camera.
At this rate, 830 cameras would record a staggering 171,772,650 (171.77 million) offences per year which led to a public outcry. The agreements were not only lopsided but the government also had to compensate the two concessionaires for terminating the agreement.
A new concessionaire was scheduled to reintroduce the AES in the first quarter of 2016 covering 350 locations. But it did not happen, and I proposed the use of dashboard cameras or dashcams as the most effective tool to capture traffic offences and street crimes.
This would allow thousands of private and commercial vehicles to participate by fitting high-quality dashcams and submit evidence of traffic violations, briberies and crimes.
Dashcams are superior to AES cameras that are fixed at known locations and cannot capture dangerous driving, tailgating, overtaking at double lines, driving on emergency lanes, and obstructing traffic by double parking.
Motorists and motorcyclists would naturally be in their best behaviour as the vehicles behind may be fitted with dashcams and rear-facing cameras can record even more offences.
In the Klang Valley, a good way to start is by installing dashcams and rear-facing cameras on all Rapid KL buses, including those used for MRT feeder bus service and Go KL free city bus. The offences captured would include vehicles parked or waiting at bus stops and street corners.
But would enforcement officers be diligent in issuing summonses or notification of traffic offences recorded by cameras? Those who do ought to be saluted. And before that, would the various ministries and agencies step up a gear to conduct surveillance and enforcements? – April 3, 2023
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.