Crony capitalism disguised as vehicle inspection

 I experienced poor counter services at JPJ before the pandemic and these got worse during the pandemic. I agree with Yamin that better ways of providing such services are badly needed. After all, they are not provided for free.

JPJ is nothing more than a tax collection agency, much similar to the Inland Revenue Board and the customs and immigration departments. And yet it has been giving poor treatment to the people it gets its earnings from.

My first experience in dealing with the JPJ vehicle inspection unit was in 1979, when I started work for a transport company that had a fleet of trucks, buses and taxis.

I was attached to the company’s main workshop and had to take charge of vehicle inspection preparation. On many occasions I personally drove a bus or a truck or a taxi from the workshop to the JPJ inspection yard and dealt directly with the vehicle inspector.

It was an all-day affair. Waiting for your turn was the name of the game. The inspectors could not organise themselves into time slots for appointments. So everyone turned up early in the morning and waited the whole day for his or her turn.

The company had a fleet of more than 50 buses, 40 trucks and 25 taxis and we had to undertake an inspection for each vehicle every six months.

I had to endure the miserable job of waiting at the JPJ inspection yard two or three times a week, a full-time task that I never expected. I think the word “efficient” was not in the vocabulary then.

There was only one inspection yard in each state, located in the state capital. Vehicles from all over converged there every day of the week to undergo mandatory inspection.

The envelope business

JPJ inspectors are employed and paid salaries by the government, but their salaries were obviously never enough. They would demand an additional income from operators like us. Otherwise the test certificate would read “Failed” without any reason given.

Operators cannot use the vehicle and you have to keep bringing back the same vehicle for inspection again and again until it passes the test.

I first learned of those practices and how they were executed in this very first job of mine though I played no part at all. There would always be a little envelope placed on the dashboard (or glove compartment, in the case of a taxi) by the workshop manager every time I drove a vehicle into a JPJ yard.

The inspection process required the inspector to get on board and sometimes drive the vehicle to test the brakes. When it was all done, he would hand back the vehicle’s key to me with “Pass” written on the certificate. When I got back on board, I could not help but notice that the small envelope was always gone.

Anti-bribery policy

In those years, no one had heard of an anti-bribery or anti-corruption policy. It didn’t exist. But word circulated widely among the public that JPJ was one of the departments targeted by the anti-corruption agency.

I left my job, which I never enjoyed doing, after two years and went to the UK to further my studies. While I was there, I discovered that the UK also had a vehicle inspection or transport ministry (MoT) certificate, as they called it, but the inspection was never done at the JPJ equivalent.

The MoT certificate test was carried out on a yearly basis for a vehicle of three years old or more and conducted by any local workshop on behalf of the ministry.

Of course, the local workshops must be accredited by the ministry and the technician who was normally the workshop owner or a senior mechanic attached to the workshop was also licensed and certified by the ministry.

The mechanic or technician would not only do a thorough inspection of your vehicle but he would also recommend a rectification or repair list, if necessary, prior to re-inspection and the final issuing of the roadworthiness or MoT certificate.

Any repair or rectification could be done at his workshop, for which he would quote a price. Vehicle owners could choose to do the repairs elsewhere and take their vehicles back to the licensed workshop for re-inspection at no additional fee. No bribery is involved. Those demanding payment would get their licences revoked and their contract terminated.

I thought then that a once-a-year inspection was more reasonable than every six months as practised in Malaysia.

Local workshops

The UK method of vehicle inspection has worked well until today. It not only eliminates corrupt practices, but also provides additional income to many workshops.

The policy is helpful to all parties, improving the competence of many motor mechanics and ensuring the proper conduct of the roadworthiness inspection. Most important of all, perhaps, is that it spurs the local economy.

Vehicle owners benefit from the convenience of the process and from not having to deal with bureaucracy. And there are huge benefits to the motor industry and society at large from the elimination of bribery and other illegal activities.

In Malaysia, the transfer of the vehicle inspection unit from JPJ to a private company was somewhat suspicious and can be regarded as being meaningless and without benefit to vehicle owners, operators and society.

Crony capitalism

There has not been much of a change from past practices, except for the introduction of computerised inspection, which is rather superficial and of no meaningful value at all.

The link between computerised inspection, high fees and road safety is a complete mockery, given the high number of road accidents.

It does not make any sense at all for vehicle owners to pay an inspection fee every time a vehicle is sold to a new buyer. What value does it add to road safety?

It has not improved the state of the motor industry or widened the competence of local motor mechanics or provided new training and knowledge to road safety practitioners.

The current vehicle inspection process is all about monopolising a licence to print money and nothing more than that, says a good friend who has a big fleet operating in logistics services.

This is indeed a magnified example of crony capitalism, he adds.

I couldn’t agree more. It is definitely an issue long overdue for review which the current administration must seriously undertake.

The problem must be rectified immediately in order for the industry to progress and the motor mechanics group to prosper. It’s another issue for the ministry of transport to ponder on.

 From a reader

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