Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain, 55, will swear in as the fourth Petaling Jaya mayor tomorrow.
In an exclusive interview with StarMetro, he shares about his optimism and strategies for Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ).
This accountant has a few tricks up his sleeve, which has helped him increase the Selayang Municipal Council's (MPS) revenue during his presidency in 2013 and 2014. MPS had previously suffered budget deficits for six years straight.
The incoming mayor is keen on introducing a job "reward" system for MBPJ staff. He believes it will motivate them to achieve their targets and foster better teamwork.
Q: MBPJ accumulated a reserve of RM308.25mil (S$114.3 million) at the end of 2013. How are you going to ensure the council's budget is well spent?
A: I am aware that when a project needs more than RM500,000, it has to be approved by the state government.
I am also aware that all projects have to undergo a tender process and this takes time.
Regardless of the reason, I want to find out if there is too much red tape which results in jobs not done and money not spent.
I have heard of councillors and even the public complaining about this matter and I want to get to the root of it.
Q: What is your leadership style?
A: The department head will manage the workflow while I monitor the end result. I am result-oriented.
I do not scold my staff as it is not my style. Instead, I encourage the weaker ones and give them a chance to shine.
Q: What are your views on the recent controversial MBPJ plan to give councillors and staff a three-month bonus?
A: I believe in setting targets and rewarding staff. However, I would not promise bonus because this is related to their pay and the state government will make the final decision.
Plus, this method may create bias during department evaluation process.
In the case of MBPJ, most of the staff scored above 80 per cent for their work performance. It may not be ideal to reward in terms of bonus. Instead, I will introduce a reward system.
I have done this in Selayang and it was a success. I set overall council Key Performance Index (KPI) to increase revenue as well as individual department KPI. The overall revenue is based on council collections such as from business permit and assessments.
As for the department KPI, I will set different goals for each department. For example, the engineering team does not bring in revenue but they have to work creatively with their allocation and complete their tasks on time.
In 2013, MPS achieved 102 per cent in revenue collection and every employee and councillor took home RM500. The following year they achieved 112 per cent and they got RM1,000 each.
As for the department KPI, the deserving department that achieves its target will be allocated a small percentage of money. The department heads can organise holidays or team-building events.
The reward can be just 1 per cent or less of the total revenue the council makes, but it helps to keep the staff's morale up. This will foster good teamwork spirit. I will do the same at MBPJ.
Q: Petaling Jaya Utara MCA chairman Tan Gim Tuan said that in the past, Petaling Jaya councillors have the habit of blaming the mayor when things go wrong. How are you going to tackle this during your tenure?
A: We can argue and quarrel over matters during meetings but decisions need to be made together. We must also stay united over the decision.
I am keen to engage with the assemblymen and MPs. They do not sit with the councillors during the full board meetings but the public go to them with their problems.
At Selayang, I meet the elected representatives at least once every three months. I had a mobile chat group in which all of them, including council department directors, were able to tell me the problems.
Hence everyone is able to take quick action. I was able to gather a lot of information from them and I will do the same in Petaling Jaya.
Q: Have you started doing your research over the issues in Petaling Jaya such as the one-way loop, the PJ Local Draft Plan amendment, the gated-and-guarded neighbourhoods, safety, waste collection and the traffic problems?
A: I was always impressed over the manner this city's ratepayers argued over their problems. They often come well prepared and speak with facts.
This just shows the council has to step up its performance and be well prepared at all times. Residents also want immediate action to be taken, whether the issue is big or small.
Quick action may be possible in some cases but when a job requires the tender process, it will take some time.
In the case of the one-way loop system, I think the main objective is to disperse traffic. It seems like this objective has been met.
However, I realise there are social problems related to the case.
I know some businesses are suffering since the implementation and I will try to work with the council to see how we can improve matters. Residents may still have safety concerns.
I have not received any briefing on the draft plan, I know the problem still remains with the first amendment. In Petaling Jaya, there could be some technical problem hence the delay with the amendments.
However, I feel the land areas with no issues should be allowed to go through the process and be amended. We have to be fair to the landowners too.
Based on an independent survey, the three most pressing issues related to councils are waste management, security and drainage network.
I welcome the move to share complaints through social media if it can help resolve problems fast. In the case of MBPJ's intention to set up its own auxiliary police force, we will continue to apply to the police while looking into other ways to improve security.
Q: Residents and community leaders want MBPJ to listen to their views directly instead of relying too much on council officers for feedback. What are your thoughts?
A: Yes I am ready to work with residents and I welcome constructive feedback. I want the public to know that I once lived in Jalan Tandang, SS3.
I have seen this city grow and I will do my best to continue providing the best council service. I will also engage with the media and use them to disseminate information related to the council.