BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has once again raised concerns over alleged abuse of power in government agencies during an unannounced visit to the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications on Wednesday.

The monarch focused on poor management at the Land Transport Department and Brunei International Airport, citing concerns over cronyism, issuance of vehicle licenses and lax customs inspections at the airport.

This was His Majesty’s third unscheduled visit to a government ministry in just over a month. He voiced similar concerns over poor management at the Ministry of Religious Affairs and also warned labour and immigration officials against corruption during a visit to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Alleged abuse of power at Land Transport

In a titah, the sultan raised suspicion of ongoing abuse of power at LTD, citing cases of preferential treatment given to some parties who are able to bypass official channels to get a vehicle license (road tax).

“Vehicle licenses are given to foreign-owned cars even if the vehicles are considered unsuitable or unsafe.

“What’s worse is that there are reports of a ‘fake’ license renewal service for older cars which bypass the proper vehicle inspection process,” he added.

His Majesty said the vehicle inspections were not strict enough as there are still many cars on the road with illegal modifications.

His Majesty tours the transport section of the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications on Oct 21, 2020. Photo: Infofoto

The monarch also criticised the work ethic of Land Transport staff at the Labu border checkpoint in Temburong.

“The department is supposed to operate at 6am but there are reports that LTD only starts operating at 7.30am.

“Sometimes [the officers] do not show up at all, while the trucks and trailers that pass through the control post cannot move without first being inspected,” he said.

The sultan added that there were allegations that staff often allow trucks and trailers to pass through as long as they have been inspected by customs officials.

“This means foreign heavy vehicles can enter the country with an excessive load that causes damage to the roads.”

He then addressed issues of cronyism saying it could cause “problematic machinery” in an organisation.

MTIC minister YB Dato Abd Mutalib briefs the sultan during the monarch’s visit to the ministry on Oct 21, 2020. Photo: Infofoto

‘Airport contractors must be held accountable for defects’

Touching on the costly upgrade of Brunei International Airport, His Majesty said authorities and contractors must be held responsible for failure to identify structural flaws that caused flooding and leakages in the building.

The airport’s arrival hall was inundated by floodwaters in 2013 and last October, despite a $130 million refurbishment under the purview of the Brunei Economic Development Board in 2014.

The sultan added that the X-ray machine used by customs officials to detect contraband was not working during his visit to the airport in October last year.

“There were reports that this equipment was deliberately hidden because it has been out of order for a long time.

“The machine was only able to show green light regardless of whether the items were contraband or not. If this is true, this means that any items can be brought in. Or is the faulty machine being used as a smokescreen?.”

This article was updated on October 22, 2020 at 7.34pm.