On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Small consumers seem to bear the brunt

The cut affected the three lifts and the pump to the main
water tank, forcing the residents to use the stairs and carry pails of water
from a neighbouring block.

Their ordeal ended on Friday, 49 hours later, when Tenaga
Nasional Bhd (TNB) restored supply to Block D1 after the building management
paid RM3,000, being part of the RM37,000 outstanding bill. TNB has also agreed
to defer its action to disconnect supply to Block D2.

The power cut upset residents who have been promptly
settling their RM50 monthly maintenance fees. TNB's decision to penalise
everyone, including the good paymasters, has gone down badly with law-abiding
residents. Rightly so.

It seems that Joe Public always has to bear the brunt.

Six companies that owe TNB a total of RM852.99mil have
been allowed to pay in instalments over 13 to 15 months.

Defaulters are often served notices to pay up after 60
days of the bill date but much leeway seems to have been given to corporate
giants while the same leniency is not shown to ordinary consumers like the
Taman Teluk Indah flat-dwellers.

When someone does not pay RM200 in arrears, TNB threatens
to cut the supply but when big companies are involved, a different standard is

Efficiency is certainly needed in TNB – it has debts of
some RM30bil – but it won't be able to recover its losses by going after the
small fry. Errant corporate defaulters should be on top of the list.

While it is easy to hammer TNB, all consumers should make
it a point to pay their electricity bills.

I used to live at a block of walk-up apartments in
Petaling Jaya, where most of the residents were businessmen and white-collar
workers. We clamoured for our strata titles from the developer but when they
were handed to us, a fresh round of problems began.

Managing the apartments ourselves wasn't easy. We found
that the biggest culprits of non-payment of maintenance fees were owners living
overseas or those who had rented out their units.

The management committee found it hard to pay the
security guards, for waste disposal and general maintenance. In fact, there was
no money in the sinking fund for a fresh coat of paint for the apartment
blocks. In the end, I moved out.

I now live in an apartment in Mont Kiara, where you think
the high-heeled would pay their dues promptly. Wrong. The same problem exists
even at high-end condominiums.

Last week, I was told that an expensive gated community
near Kajang had run into similar problems because some rich owners have not
been paying their fees. As a result, the security system is now badly run and
the housing scheme is poorly lit.

Sometimes, the fault lies with the management company
that is quick to demand for payment of fees from apartment owners but slow to
respond to general maintenance needs.

At my apartment unit, the intercom has not been working
for months and my complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Some of the lights at
the swimming pool are on the blink. Again, the management doesn't seem to

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is right
when he said that Malaysians live in first-class facilities but have Third
World mentality. This is reflected not only in the way we maintain
our facilities but the apparent lack of civic consciousness.

Many Malaysians, irrespective of financial standing, are
still not quite ready to share the responsibilities and commitment of living in
a common property.