Saturday, May 19, 2012

Runaround

It's been almost 3 weeks since the incident involving the rogue lorry and 22 other vehicles. I thought it would be all over by now, and Kets (that's how I call my car, although his full name is actually Ketsbaia) would be with me right now, but apparently that is not the case. The damage done was far worse than anyone had initially anticipated and it turns out that the one of the major repairs require some sort of approval from the Road Transport Department (RTD)

Earlier this week, the agent who was in charge at the workshop handling my repairs called and said that I have to go and swear an oath at the RTD (this was literally translated from 'angkat sumpah kat Puspakom). Having never met with an accident before and not knowing anyone else who's been in such a situation, I honestly thought I'd have to sign the form and swear in front of the RTD officer. Turns out, that's not how it's done. You take the forms to a commissioner of oaths, get his (it's always an old man) signature, a few stamps here and there and then you submit the forms to RTD to approve. Two weeks later (after all, the RTD is a *government agency and is prone to extreme sluggishness) they'll apparently call you and tell you it has been approved (or not) and then only you can take your car to them for a physical/roadworthy test. If everything is good, then you get your car back. If not, I really don't even want to think about it.

I could only get yesterday off, and duly went to get the forms from the office at the workshop. The agent's boss gave me the required forms and told me what to do. She also said that the RTD officers had the tendency to reject the application at times citing incomplete documentation and added a few more papers to the pile she'd given me earlier. My dad (who kindly drove me there) asked her why didn't the shop runners do it, and she said they could, but it would require extra payment. I figured that it wouldn't be too difficult to do it ourselves and therefore took the forms and left. Besides, I had taken the whole day off and thought it'd be a waste to get someone else to do what seemed to be quite a straightforward task.

I was dead wrong, though. The Commissioner of Oaths was efficient. He signed my form immediately and I was on my way to the RTD within a few minutes. About half an hour later, we finally reached the RTD and went looking for the correct building to submit my form. It was a Friday and it was already 11:20 by then. Government offices close at 12:15 (officially) on Fridays to cater to the Friday prayers, but someone who was pointing us towards the correct building told us that by 11:45, they kind of unofficially stop working. After walking quite a bit and almost submitting the form to the wrong counter (the accident cases have a different building, I was told by the wrong counter dude), we finally found the correct counter. He took my forms, made a comment about my small signature, and then told me the forms were incomplete. My heart fell. It really did. I tried using my rusty girlish charms (I usually don't need it, and try my best to not use it because I want to be taken seriously) but he said that he could accept it, but his boss would definitely reject it.

He made a comment about how the workshop should 'know better' than to send me with incomplete documents. I called the lady at the workshop to tell her what extra things he needed and she said that what she gave was already complete. It was, but he just wanted extra stuff. And then understanding dawned.

I decided that I'd use the services of the workshop runners and went back to give them my incomplete documents and paid up the required amount for the services, RM200 (roughly 64 USD) There was no receipt for this amount. The person in charge of my documentation shrugged and said that many of those who chose to submit the documents themselves have complained that their submission was rejected by the RTD due to incomplete documentation, whereas the same documentation if sent through a runner was immediately accepted.

Now, while I don't have an issue paying for good services, I don't see why we need to pay for someone else to do a job which you can do yourself. Submitting a form is easy enough, and with the documentation given by the workshop, everything should have been accepted immediately. I hate to say this, but I don't think I'd be too far off to point out that the reason there's no receipt for runner services is that the money gets split around to allow a smoothness in the flow which wouldn't be there otherwise. Hence their higher success rate compared to individuals who thought they could do it on their own. It's so sick that everyone just accepts that they have to use the services of the runners to get things done, and they do it. Government agencies are so used to runners, that when you opt out of the so-called system, they give you a runaround until you succumb to it as well. I could have argued that the documentation was sound, but what if they held it against me and purposely took ages to approve my car just to spite me for fighting back? We, as the citizens of this country are allowing such things to happen right under our noses!

This is the only running around I'm willing to do. Thank you very much.
Anyway, I was wondering, since quite a number of you are from different countries. Do you have to deal with third parties handling stuff for you when dealing with government agencies in order to get them done? Or if you're Malaysian (or not), have you been in a similar situation?  I'm curious, is this a local problem, or one that is universal.

*So far, I think only the Inland Revenue Board is the most helpful and efficient government agency, but that also could be due to the nature of what they're handling - taxes.

25 comments:

  1. That's the problem with this country. You need to 'pay' for most things to be approved. I have the same issue with municipal councils who approve signage licenses. It's an easy enough job to do it by myself but I'm left with having to pay runners to get things approved otherwise I'm stuck! Really corruption at it's worse! Hope you get your car issues sorted out soon.

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    1. Oh damn, how horrible. So it is a common occurrence. I guess the only way out is when the country starts doing stuff online so everything is transparent...

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  2. This just sounds utterly bizarre....having to swear an oath to prove the roadworthiness of your car? It just sounds like a spurious revenue stream for the government - what we have in recent years come to call a stealth tax.

    In the UK we do not have the kind of overt bribery that exists in many countries. There is certainly an amount of political and corporate corruption but this is so obfuscated that it is difficult to detect and prosecute.

    For some processes you might engage a third party to deal with a government agency (dealing with complex personal tax circumstances perhaps) but this is only if you cannot spare the time to do it yourself or are no good at filling in forms. There is never the suggestion you are giving people a "drink" (UK slang for a payment that has slightly more of a connotation than a simple tip).

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    1. Actually, the Commissioner of Oaths' fee was what I'd consider 'almost nothing' - although, like you I don't see why I had to take an oath - it's not like I was the one who repaired the car.

      To be honest, I also thought that third parties were there to only assist you if you didn't want to go through the hassle of doing it on your own. This was a really shocking revelation. I'm planning to complain to my local MP - after I get back my car, though.

      Thanks for the feedback on how it is in the UK.

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  3. That's pretty corrupt. Things like that are probably done in a similar way here but I wouldn't know. I haven't had enough experience with it yet to safely say.

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    1. Yeah, I guess you're probably still young enough to not have to deal too much with government agencies at the moment.

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  4. That does sound like it is indeed used as a bribe. Which is actually rather annoying. We usually only use ourselves for dealing with the government. Really that's all they allow. It takes a lot to get someone else to do something for you. They still make you wait ages though. Especially the DMV. The Department of Motor Vehicles. I hope they let you keep your car though.

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    1. Well, that's how it should be - us handling our own forms and settling things ourselves (unless we're not capable of doing so for various reasons)

      Maybe delays are inevitable if the government is short staffed, but in Malaysia, the civil service is actually bloated with too many staff, they should be able to do things. Anyway, I was there and most of them were like slugs, just waiting for their Friday afternoon break.

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  5. Sometimes I think that when it comes to corruption, South Africa is King. We don't need runners here, in fact people will do the job... but you can literally get whatever you want if you know the right people and "for a small fee". Here, if a traffic cop pulls someone over and wants to give them a ZAR500 fine for speeding, all they do is whip out ZAR50, hand it to him "unofficially" and the incident is forgotten. It's actually quite sickening because it ruins the system.

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    1. Indeed. It becomes a habit of sorts and leaves the people who want to follow the system at a loss. To go with the flow or not? That bribing the cops to not give you a ticket happens here too, Azra, although I've heard that there's now a place where you can lodge a complaint if you've been asked for 'money' to escape from being issued a summon.

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  6. oh dear. this sounds too familiar. and i'm sorry you had to go through all that shit. i always think that government officials only work 4 days a week, with the weekend starting on friday. it annoys me to bits.

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    1. Lets not forget the morning 10 am break, and the 3 pm tea breaks where no one will answer your calls. It's so infuriating.

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  7. Wow. So basically, you have to bribe someone to get the required forms completed?

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    1. Roughly. They don't ask for it openly, but that's the impression you get after talking to the parties involved. :(

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  8. Its always a pain when you have to deal with corrupted lazy people. hope things start going better for you - thanks for the post
    Take a stop by my blog and check it out if you get a chance.
    -Sg7
    http://stuffguy7.blogspot.com

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    1. Now I know.. ha ha.

      Thanks for dropping by :)

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  9. Unfortunately, this is "the same old story" everywhere. Sorry to hear about your problems.

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    1. I thought it's more of an Asian problem...

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    2. I'm afraid it's more like a human problem... :)

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  10. I see now what you meant when you told me you'd rather deal with computers. My goodness, that's quite a story. Runners, too... Is that a fact? The things that people do for an extra buck.

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    1. That's what they're called... they do the running around to help you settle stuff in govt agencies which will otherwise take a whole day for a fee.

      And yes, I truly prefer machines to people now.

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  11. Almost all red tape in Asian countries seems to require extra "handling" fees. It's part of the culture.

    We don't have it in Australia, or if we do, I've managed to live my whole life without encountering it.

    About 20 years ago a friend of mine was told if he paid a certain amount to a bent cop that his DUI charge (his third, so he was looking at losing his licence for a long time) would be looked upon more favourably so he duly handed over $500.00. He STILL got a $2000 fine and lost his licence for six months anyway.

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    1. From what I've heard, it's not common in Australia. I heard on the radio once where someone who has friends who've migrated to Australia complained to him that it's almost impossible to bribe an Aussie govt servant.

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    2. I guess your friend's story kind of validates it. A pity he had to part with $500 extra though... he could have used it to pay someone to drive him around instead

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