On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

All’s certainly not well at City Hall

The Datuk Bandar of Kuala Lumpur is a much sought after job. It has prestige, glamour and more important, power. It is a hot seat and recent developments prove there is no shortage of ambitious people who cannot wait to see him fall.

Just a year ago, Datuk Mohamed Shaid Mohd Taufik ended his term in a most unceremonious way, after just three years.  He found out about it from the press, several hours after the Federal Territories Ministry issued a statement announcing his director-general Ruslin as successor.

At a press conference to announce City Hall's 2004 Budget, Mohd Shaid told newsmen that he did not know about his termination and that no one had called to inform him.

But he must have known it was coming. He had rubbed certain powerful politicians up the wrong way and his relationship with then FT Minister Tan Sri Mohamed Isa Abdul Samad was said to be bad.

According to supporters of Mohd Shaid, he, too, was a victim of a plot to oust him using political pressure. What has happened to Ruslin is certainly the result of a power struggle in City Hall.

Interestingly, Isa has also quit from the Cabinet following his suspension from Umno after he was found guilty of money politics in the party elections.

In 1992, the media-savvy mayor Tan Sri Elyas Omar stepped down after a controversy whereby it was revealed that City Hall planned to buy a fleet of 22 Volvos for its department heads at a cost of RM2.3mil.

The problem was that only the director-general was entitled to a Volvo, so the knives were drawn when the other department heads got to enjoy the same model. The situation was made worse because the cars were turbo-charged automatic models costing RM8,000 more than the normal ones.

Just months earlier, Elyas found himself in the soup when he was questioned for leading a 100-member delegation to Casablanca on a trip which cost ratepayers RM800,000. But Elyas maintained it was only RM240,000.

Elyas was also accused by the media of using a doctorate from a non-existent university, to which he retorted that it was the media which had used the Dr title. But the powers-that-be already had had enough of Elyas. In the end, he was dumped too.

Ruslin has admitted that "there must have been those who were unhappy with changes and decisions implemented over the past seven months since I assumed office".

The fact is that the rumblings of dissatisfaction have been heard along the corridors of DBKL and soon various rumours began circulating.

The hottest was the allegation that a police report had been filed about a nurse being fondled by a senior DBKL official. But police said there was no such report.

Ruslin, it is said, was once put in "cold storage" for eight years by his rivals who gave him the unglamorous position of coordinating waste collection in Cheras. But he managed to work his way back to the top.

Now, Malaysians have learned through news reports that a group of senior officials, known as the Group of Seven, could be linked to the conspiracy to topple Ruslin. The plot certainly gets thicker.

But Malaysians also want to know whether the Anti-Corruption Agency will dig deeper into the allegations of corruption in the DBKL, irrespective of the level of officials involved.

The ACA has taken the first step of investigating the allotment of temporary licences for the fasting month in Jalan Mesjid India.

One newspaper reported rumours of DBKL officials demanding rental from Sri Hartamas traders.

The authorities should not just dismiss this as hearsay but to check with the traders there.

From the way events have unfolded in City Hall, things are not going well. A big clean-up must be undertaken and Malaysians hope the ACA will be allowed to do its job, without fear or favour.