End PUSPAKOM’s monopoly on commercial vehicle inspection to enhance road safety

puspakom (EN)

Media Statement by DAP National Political Education Director and MP for Kluang Liew Chin Tong on 7 November 2014 (Sunday)

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai should put an end to PUSPAKOM’s monopoly on commercial vehicle inspection in order to protect the people’s interest from cronies and also prevent further increase of fatal road accidents.

In a verbal reply to my question in Parliament on 4 November (Tuesday), the Minister said that PUSPAKOM’s concession agreement is valid until 2024. He also said that the agency’s most important task is to improve the agency’s services by increasing the number of its branches to better serve the public.

PUSPAKOM’s inefficiency is notorious and this has indirectly contributed to the gradual increase of fatal road accidents in Malaysia. Since 1994, PUSPAKOM has been consistently under-performing and public complaints against PUSPAKOM have been never-ending.

More importantly, a certificate of roadworthiness from PUSPAKOM does not show that the inspected vehicle is safe to be on the road. During investigation into the August 2013 Genting Highland Bus Crash, it was revealed that PUSPAKOM did not conduct proper checks or keep up-do-date records on the bus owned by Genting Highlands Transport which plunged into a ravine and killed 37 precious lives. Faulty brakes were found to be among the main reasons behind the worst accident in the nation’s history.

As pointed out in the Independent Advisory Panel in its report on the crash, PUSPAKOM had been,

“lackadaisical in conducting vehicle inspection and it did not take appropriate action for improvement. The Panel believes this is also not an isolated case.”

To rectify these problems contributed by PUSPAKOM, Liow should clarify whether the ministry would liberalise commercial vehicle inspection to allow more qualified and competent service providers to step in instead of allowing PUSPAKOM to continue with the unhealthy monopoly.

On 1 December 2009, the then-Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri told Parliament that PUSPAKOM’s exclusive rights for commercial vehicle inspection would end in 2014.

On 27 June 2011, the then-Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department S. Devamany said that the government has decided to extend exclusive rights to PUSPAKOM beyond 2014, until 2024. This was a U-turn on the 2009 statement by the then-Deputy Transport Minister.

The decision to continue with the monopoly arrangement was because made by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) which we must remember, is under the purview of the Prime Minister. Devamany even said that issue concerning PUSPAKOM’s agreement is “sensitive”.

Why is it so sensitive? Is it because PUSPAKOM is a subsidiary of DRB-HICOM Berhad, which is a conglomerate controlled by Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary?

Liow should heed the government’s earlier promise by ending PUSPAKOM’s monopoly. As the Genting Bus Crash Report has shown, PUSPAKOM’s lackadaisical inspection procedures would endanger Malaysian road users as its certificate of road-worthiness actually create a false sense of security for millions of road users in Malaysia.

By liberalising the vehicle inspection market and at the same time stepping up regulatory enforcement efforts by Road Transport Department (RTD), only then vehicle owners could benefit from reduced risk of road accidents, which Malaysia holds the dubious record of being one of the top countries in the world for.

Liew Chin Tong

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