Community funds utilised to support frontliners and the most vulnerable
Last Monday, exactly a week ago, I wrote that the federal government has approved RM100,000 of community funds for Opposition MPs. In the same posting, I stated that the amount is suppose to last the entire year. While these funds are not specifically for Covid-19, I intend to spend most of it during this Covid-19 crisis period.
My officers, volunteers and I had a zoom meeting at noon last Monday to discuss the matter. We came up with a base budget plan then parcelled out tasks to make calls to ADUNS, community leaders, NGOs, police, bomba and MPSJ. We asked them what they needed in terms of financial support.
On Tuesday, we had two more Zoom meetings to discuss the feedback from the calls, followed by more phone calls to re-negotiate budget allocations. For instance, when we spoke to the police, they sent us an estimate of additional goods that they needed such as masks, gloves, sanitisers, detergents with a budget above our entire RM100,000 allocation.
After further refining the plan, on Wednesday, we called the Prime Minister Department’s ICU (Selangor) office to discuss our plan and asked for some administrative adjustments due to the MCO. Some documentation that may require attestation are almost impossible to obtain during the MCO. Documentation needed are an official signed letter from a legally registered society, ROS certificate to prove the same, bank account details and a budget plan and if possible, quotations.
After getting the ICU feedback on Wednesday evening, we had a final Zoom meeting, then made calls again to recipients to guide them on the necessary paperwork. Thursday and Friday was spent chasing up the recipients to complete their documentation, so that we can forward to the ICU, to process. Some recipients have forwarded and some are still pending. From the above, you can see there are some administrative issues and hurdles to resolve.
Firstly, please note that the RM100,000 is kept by the ICU office. No money is sent to our bank account for us to do any form of discretionary spending. Instead, our job in terms of community spending is largely to “recommend” aid recipients, compile the paperwork, forward to ICU and after that ICU will process the same. The ICU will either approve or reject, make amendments or request for more documentation. So it is extremely important to get the paperwork right at the initial stage. The ICU process takes an average of 3 to 5 working days.
Secondly, the amount of RM100,000 is relatively small. Parliament Subang has 146,000 registered voters in 2018 with an overall population size of 400,000 people. The sum of RM100,000 basically means, my office has about 25 sen to spend per person, for the whole year. So prioritising whom to spend on becomes essential. I know some middle class constituents are asking for masks, but we can’t possibly supply enough nor can we logistically and physically deliver them. With our limited budget, we have to prioritise the frontliners for masks and the most vulnerable poor with cash and food aid.
On that front, after much internal consideration, we decided that we should spend half of the allocation or RM50,000 on the frontliners, to enable them to do their job of maintaining the MCO and keep public order. The other RM50,000 will go towards the most vulnerable.
We based our frontliners budget on two months worth of supplies for hand sanitisers, gloves, face masks, detergents and other applicable safety equipment. The five agencies are (a) Ibu Pejabat Polis Daerah Serdang; (b) Ibu Pejabat Daerah Subang; (c) Subang Jaya Fire and Rescue Station; (d) Puchong Fire & Rescue Station; and MPSJ, specifically for their enforcement officers. BTW, we do not have a public hospital in our constituency.
On the most vulnerable front, Subang is blessed with two hard working ADUNS; YB Ng Sze Han and YB Michelle Ng. Their officers, councillors, JKP community leaders and volunteers have been managing the crisis as well as they are able. In these extraordinary times with the MCO in place, they cannot possibly help everyone but they are doing their very best. Since Pakatan Harapan still controls the Selangor State Government, my ADUNS’ community funds are still largely intact.
Nevertheless, my office has budgeted an amount of RM32,000 to be distributed to the most vulnerable via the JKPs. Some JKPs have requested funds, some has asked us to keep the money on standby. This means that we will retain around RM18,000 for the time being.
By my estimate, the critical period will be in the middle of this month, when savings start to run out and more and more vulnerable people will need financial support. Noting that the government’s RM1,000 handout payment will only be paid out in end of April, we are making preparations for that crucial two week period, between the 15th to 30th April. We are expected to utilise the remaining RM18,000 as emergency funds during that period.
Separately, we have also been approached by some private donors and we are thankful for such support during these critical times. These will also be distributed by the 15th of April. I will put a separate posting on this in due time.
Lastly, after we have exhausted the RM100,000, we will publish a report on where the money went. It has been our consistent practice over the last 6 years, to publish our year end accounts, and we intend to continue this culture of transparency.