Three waves of Road Transport Department (RTD) arrests were conducted last April, when 100 people were interrogated, including 75 of the 139 enforcement officers of the Penang RTD. Are we shocked at the large numbers of people, including 50 officers, who were arrested for corruption? No, we are not!
It is shocking that it took this long to be highlighted.
Equally shocking was that the scandal* in the RTD was not exposed by an internal probe, an MACC investigation, a police raid, or a tip-off from a road user. Instead, a woman whose former husband divorced her and remarried, allegedly blew the whistle on the RTD.
The former husband had been part of an elaborate syndicate involving lorry drivers and transport companies. Feeling betrayed by her husband’s infidelity, she went to the MACC and gave them the syndicate’s transaction records. She wanted to punish her husband, but she did us a massive favour.
So, what does that tell you about the integrity of the RTD staff? What were the Pengarahs and officers doing?
We have known about RTD corruption for decades
In most of the government agencies with large scale corruption, there is always gossip, in the canteens or warongs. It is human nature for those who are part of the racket to boast about what they have purchased or done recently; but those who are not beneficiaries, will feel envious, and will air their suspicions.
A “switched on” officer, will realise that an employee on a particular pay scale would not be able to afford a luxury holiday, car, expensive watch or house.
It is improbable that high ranking officers in the RTD were clueless, or blind to the allegations of corruption. They, their aides and media personnel, read the papers, don’t they? Letters to the editor about a particular angst on the public roads should have alerted them. How many times have we reported overloaded lorries, lorries with broken brake lights, speeding buses or coach drivers driving dangerously, to no avail?
More government agencies affected
In one corruption case, in the Lumut navy, staff in the purchasing department had boasted that they had just acquired expensive watches, imported 4WDs, or taken the whole family on an expensive holiday. People talked, and one retired officer was so appalled, that he alerted various people, including the press. The rest is history.
Acquaintances working in MAS have alleged that theft from the First Class aeroplane cabin, or the Club Class airport lounge is common. Food, fresh fruit, drink, toiletry bags, cutlery, and even toilet rolls are easily nicked. When I asked why they did it, one said, “Our bosses steal millions from the contract to supply goods, which are purchased from their own friends’ companies. What we take is nothing in comparison!”
If that is how the staff think, then the same is probably going through the minds of junior RTD staff.
If the top have no integrity, why should we expect the staff, who are lower down the pecking order, to act with honesty and perform their work with diligence?
The Penang RTD
The Penang RTD scandal involved employees who were aged between 32- and 55-years-old. They were protecting lorry drivers, and were alleged to have received between RM10,000 and RM32,000 per month. In return for the financial reward, they had to ignore violations of transport regulations.
What we know is probably the tip of the iceberg, and if we extrapolate the numbers of crooked RTD employees in Penang, to those in the other states, we are probably looking at hundreds, if not thousands of corrupt people.
The RTD officers knew which lorries to “protect”, because lorries of the firms which were part of the syndicate, were identifiable by stickers produced by a “tonto” operation. “Tonto” is a term which law enforcement operators use to describe the middleman in criminal activities, or the informer paid by criminals.
The “tontos” would also alert lorry drivers of RTD roadblocks on their routes.
Corruption drains the department’s resources
Do not think of the exposé as just money for corrupt officials. Think of it another way. All the revenue from the transport violations should have gone to the RTD, to be used to improve working conditions, training programs, for purchasing equipment, and to increase the safety of our roads and vehicles, through proper enforcement and regulation. Instead, greedy, selfish and corrupt RTD staff only thought of enriching themselves.
We are used to reading about fatal bus crashes. Earlier investigations showed that many drivers had been on drugs, and had criminal convictions or speeding tickets. Despite these violations, their licences were still approved by the RTD.
Corruption in the RTD has been around for ages, and the public, the police, and the MACC, have long been aware of it. We are just baffled that no action had been taken.
Now we understand why the convicted drivers are still allowed to drive. The people who should have enforced the law, were corrupt.
The RTD in other states should also be subject to thorough investigation.
*FMT tried to verify this with the RTD but no reply was forthcoming.