While Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) members waste everyone’s time and public money taking potshots at one another, municipal facilities continue to deteriorate. In fact, CMC services have fallen to unacceptably low levels.
The CMC should take note of the following:
- With the rains, many roads are flooded. While some flooded sites may involve considerable work and costs (such as draining low-lying areas), a number of sites can be repaired with moderate effort and expenditure so as to prevent future flooding.
- Repairs to lanes are at a virtual standstill. Where there are apartments, the CMC has recovered the cost of road trenching for laying water pipes and electric cables. Damaged roads continue to be neglected. Unless residents remind the CMC, the CMC loses track of the repair and restoration work that has to be done. Additionally, there is the usual wear and tear, especially in lanes where construction work has been done. The repair and restoration work has been decentralised and delegated to the five district units. Even if the District Office wants to carry out repair and restoration work, it cannot get regular supplies of stones and asphalt mix from the CMC asphalt plant. District engineers are totally frustrated.
- Street signs are done with Singlish spelling, not English spelling.
- Several main roads are in need of repair. This is the responsibility of the Road Development Authority (RDA), but the RDA leaves the work for the CMC to do. The result? Neither does anything.
- Manhole covers have sunk several inches below the road surface, and some have come loose. This could cause serious accidents and injury.
- Pavements are blocked by concrete ramps built to provide cars easy access into premises. In commercial areas, some shops have extended their structures on to the pavement.
The CMC engineers are fully aware of these issues, but they cannot do much until the CMC reorganises itself. Councillors interfere whenever tenders are called for repair and restoration work; they interfere when attempts are made to remove ramps encroaching on pavements; they interfere when disciplinary action is being taken against unionised workers (such as at the asphalt plant); they delay approvals for the release of funds.
The engineers have given up in disgust. Their morale has sunk to an all-time low. Some have even become sycophants of the councillors in order to survive, and are taking sides in the ongoing battles.
Meanwhile, there are still some enthusiastic CMC engineers who genuinely want to give the rate payers a good service.
The special commissioner should get himself a few top-level administrators from outside. Control of the CMC by the Western Provincial Council should be limited to policy matters only.
The rate payers too should do their bit and bombard the mayor’s office, the media and the President with letters of complaint. And they should start doing so NOW.