IT has been labelled as a redundant ministry – one that we can do without – yet everyone wants a stake in it.
While the Federal Territories Ministry oversees policy matters in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, its focus has always been on the nation’s capital simply because Putrajaya is too small and its role in Labuan remains inconsequential.
But will the present administration scrap this ministry whose role appears to overlap Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s?
Three Barisan Nasional (BN) heavyweights – Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor (Putrajaya), Datuk Seri Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin (Lembah Pantai) and Datuk Seri Zulhasnan Rafique (Setiawangsa) – contested for a spot in Kuala Lumpur during the general election.
All three have at one time helmed the ministry. Had the trio and BN won, there would have been a tussle on who would run the ministry.
Section 4 of the Federal Territory Planning Act stipulates the mayor administers the municipal duties of Kuala Lumpur. However, Section 13 of the same Act states the minister may give the mayor directions on policies and the mayor shall give effect to all such directions.
Despite wide powers, the mayor remains subservient to the Federal Territories Minister.
Herein lies the problem of having a mayor who becomes the ‘puppet’ for the government of the day.
This means the mayor does not have the final say on matters concerning development, housing, licensing and even billboard applications in the city.
Even land matters come under the purview of the minister.
The previous administration, had through its welfare arm Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan, usurped the role of the council and mayor even further as it was involved in housing, billboard as well as parking management matters in the city.
Last year, the ministry received a RM1.16 billion allocation. At the same time, City Hall had a RM2.87 billion budget.
There are 15 divisions and over 300 staff members at the ministry. Yet, it sorely lacks expertise as engineers and quantity surveyors are sourced from City Hall.
The government could instead park the city council under the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
Alternatively, the mayor could be given a free hand to administer the federal capital while being accountable for his actions to stakeholders in the city. He should also be directly answerable to the prime minister.
This may not be a bad idea, given the unique role of Kuala Lumpur.
Either way, scrapping the role of the Federal Territories Ministry will be a step in the right direction as the nation gears up to having local government elections in the near future.