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Greedy Sabah officers eyeing welfare aid

By Luke Rintod of FMT
The Sabah Welfare Department has struck off a 70-year-old from their
aid list because they consider him to be 'healthy and capable of working.'
PENAMPANG: Greed has no end in Sabah where the poor, aged and disabled now face corrupt officers who want a share of their meagre RM150 or RM300 government welfare subsistence.

These groups now live in uncertainty fearful of whether their next month’s aid will be heldback because these Welfare Department officers also decide whether they are ‘fit’ or ‘unfit’ for support.

Sadly in Sabah, these groups are being held for ransom by the Sabah Welfare Department.

Already the department has come under fire for irregularities in the distribution of monthly welfare aid to the needy in various districts.

Last year, the department was accused of pulling back the RM300 monthly welfare allowance for the elderly poor and disadvantaged.

The allegation then was that most of those affected were Christian recipients, contributing to a gloomy Christmas for many recipients.

The Sabah Ministry of Community Development and Consumer Affairs who oversees welfare assistance then denied that there were such cases but nevertheless promised look into it.

That was eight months ago. Whilst the same issue has now resurfaced, there is a new twist to the controversy.

Corruption officers

This time the controversy is laced with allegations of corruption against certain Welfare Department officers.

Welfare recipients claim they have been asked for a ‘fee’ to ensure they receive their monthly aid from the government uninterrupted.

It is understood that many of those receiving aid must be interviewed every few months to check their eligibility.

These evaluations are done by Welfare Department officers.

Normally, those above 60 years who cannot fend for themselves are eligible to receive a RM300 subsistence handout called Bantuan Orang Tua (BOT).

The mentally as well as physically disabled persons along with single mothers are also eligible to receive between RM150 to RM300 every month.

70 and being fit won’t do

But a 70-year-old from Kota Belud, who complained to FMT last year that he was no longer receiving the aid, said his situation had not changed. He is yet to receive his allowance.

A recent letter he received from the Welfare Department has left him puzzled.

According to the letter his monthly allowance was revoked because he is ‘still healthy and capable of working’.

“Of course my wife and myself look after our health and we do a lot of activities that keep the body okay but there is no means we could find proper jobs now due to our advanced age… but let it be lah, it is okay,” he said.

He added that last year when he went to the Kota Belud district office to inquire about his allowance, a staff told him he was not eligible.

“I was shocked when a staff there told me that I should not be eligible for the aid as I have a handphone and a wristwatch,” he said.

A check with another 79-year-old Dusun from Kota Belud who was interviewed by FMT last year, revealed that his RM300 had since been reinstated after he stopped receiving the aid in August 2010.

“Yes, it was reinstated. However we still fear it may be pulled back again without notice because they told our father it is subject to renewal,” said his daughter.

Meanwhile an elder socio-political activist here, Fredoline Edwin Lojingki, criticised the government for its “alang-alang” policy in aiding the aged and the unfortunate.

“There seems to be irregularities in the distribution of welfare aid to old folk and the unfortunate like disabled people or OKU (Orang Kurang Upaya) in Sabah.

“The cases are not confined to Kota Belud and Kota Kinabalu but has happened in almost every district in Sabah.

“Unexplained delays and sudden termination of aid are just among the end problem.

“The rootcause of the problem remains the state government,” said Lojingki who was politically active since early 1960s in the now-defunct Upko.

Why the delay?

Lojingki, 70, said the agony of waiting for much needed aid is bad enough for the average families and is worse for disadvantaged ones.

“The process takes such a very long time. As an old man, I can imagine how distraught those families affected by this “alang-alang” policy of the current government must be.

“Why can’t this government speed up the processes? Why can’t they allocate monthly aid on schedule just like the civil servants’ salary?

“After all this welfare aid is budgeted every year and there are enough officers to manage it.

“As a Sabah minister said there was no such thing as “tiada duit”, we would like to see prompt improvement on this welfare scheme.

“Another issue that is very disturbing is the widespread allegation that most of those whose welfare aid has been terminated and rejected are Christians.

The state Welfare Department was unavailable for comment.

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