Executive powers lie with the mayor in the city councils, and presidents in the municipal and district councils. They are appointed by their state governments on either a part-time or full-time basis. The state government also sets remuneration. The respective state governments establish executive committees, which are chaired by the mayor or president. Councils can establish other general or specific committees at their discretion. Local government is responsible for public health and sanitation, waste removal and management, town planning, environmental protection and building control, social and economic development and general maintenance functions of urban infrastructure.
Following the outcome of the 12th general election on March 8 this year, when the Barisan Nasional lost control of four states and failed to unseat the PAS state government in Kelantan, there have been calls to amend the Local Government Act to bring back local council elections. In Selangor, the new Pakatan Rakyat state government has declared that elected representatives would not be appointed local councillors in the two city councils (Shah Alam and Petaling Jaya) and 12 municipal councils in the state. The current changed political scenario, especially in Selangor, has brought about a sort of grassroots political awakening involving a new perception and a holistic perspective on the role and scope of the local councils and councillors. The Local Government Act 1976 (Act 171) Section 10 (2) states that “councillors of the local authority shall be appointed from among persons the majority of whom shall be persons ordinarily residents in the local authority area who in the opinion of the state authority have wide experience in local government affairs or who have achieved distinction in any profession, commerce or industry, or are otherwise capable of representing the interests of their communities in the local authority area”.
Section 10 (1) states that “the local authority shall consist of the mayor or president and not less than eight and not more than 24 other councillors to be appointed by the state authority”. Section (3) stipulates that the term of office of each councillor shall not exceed three years while Section (6) states that a councillor shall be eligible for reappointment upon the expiry of his term of office.Under Section 28 of the Local Government Act, each local authority may, from time to time, appoint committees, either of a general or special nature, consisting of a chairman, councillors and such other persons as it may deem fit. The new batch of councillors for the two city councils and 12 local councils in Selangor are also expected to sit in the relevant committees, rendering their expertise in areas like licensing, building, infrastructure and finance. Each of the councillors of the previous administration used to serve in at least two to four committees.Their selection to the committees is based on recommendations made by the state leaders of their respective political parties.
In the awarding of contracts, Section 34 (1) of the Local Government Act clearly states that any councillor with a pecuniary interest, whether direct or indirect, in any contract or proposed contract should withdraw from the meeting where the matter is under consideration. There have been allegations from the public that the previous elected representatives strongly influenced decisions on the awarding of contracts in that particular states.