IWK Asks Its "Customers" To Pay 

Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd, once run, and messed up, by that international business man of unquestioned repute, now employs debt-recovery agents to collect what it cannot. It went through several hands, each threatening its "customers" it did not have any contract with, threatening to have water cut off if sewage bills were not paid, and is now in the hands of the federal government. Sewage is a municipal service, which assessments take care of. Yet IWK, now owned by Ministry of Finance Incorporated, insists it must also be paid even if does not have a contract with you. If the government orders you to pay, as one IWK official told me bluntly, you should. I said if I need a telephone, I have to sign a contract with Telekom Malaysia, for electricity with Tenaga Nasional, so if I need IWK service, I shall contact it.

IWK is a failed privatisation service, issued to a crony to make money but without working out how he could. It was rushed through in 1990, before the general elections, and this international business man of unquestioned repute huffed and puffed and threatened and got cabinet ministers on his side but it did not work. IWK would not answer basic questions, but go on a high horse of depleting water resources. In the latest exercise, it returns to that theme: "We need the money to carry out our task in providing a proper and efficient sewerage system. It is an important and costly task," an IWK statement said yesterday. Indeed, it is. I commend it for its public service. But could IWK explain why those who do not have a contract with it should provide the funds for its public service?

When IWK employs debt-collectors to collect RM240 million it claims it is owed by its customers. In Canning Garden East, in Ipoh, it threatened housewives, when their men were at work, of dire consequences, which included auctioning of their houses, if they did not pay what was owed immediately. Many rushed to borrow money and pay. If this is how these debt collectors do their work, something surely is wrong.

The simple test of whether one is a customer is if one has signed a contract with IWK. Those of you who has would have to pay. Those who have not are not customers. Besides, if I do not pay my telephone or electricity bills, the utility is cut off until payment is made. IWK should cut off service instead of sending in debt-collectors. The statement says IWK is serious and are fully committed to collect all the money due to us. An admirable thought. But how can IWK collect what it is not owed? The issue is not IWK's commitment to a "proper and efficient sewerage system" but its right to collect from Malaysians without an agreement. And the arrogance of its officers.

I have told IWK I am happy to pay what I owe provided it produces a contract I signed for its service. If you would recall, it sent me three bills, in three different and unknown names, but with the totals rising with each. In condominiums and flats, IWK insists it can collect from those who run it and residents would have to pay. It cannot. It would have to sign individual contracts with each resident. But the IWK management does not want to address these issues. If this comes to court, and several I know have been summoned and intend to fight it out, it would throw more odium on IWK. The international business man of unquestioned repute took the money and the MoF inc eventually the execreta that IWK's stock-in-trade.

M.G.G. Pillai 


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