Fine-tune services at UTC JB, please?

The Government must be commended for setting up the Urban Transformation Centre or UTC, as a one-stop public services centre at Galleria Kotaraya along Jalan Trus.

Applicants are seen, standing and waiting from the
entrance of the hall
In July 2014, the UTC opened at three levels of this mall in ten clusters to provide core services for Welfare & Social Services, Education Services, Training & Employment, Business & Entrepreneurship Development, Health Services, Financial Services, Government Services, NGO Development Youth Services, Utility Services and Security Services.  These services involve 31 state and federal Government agencies, including the Immigration, National Registration, Road Transport and 1Malaysia health clinic.

The easy accessibility to centrally located Galleria Kotaraya is a boon to the public who are unfamiliar with sub-urban locales where these departments have been relocated.  With this one-stop facility, the hassle of going from one agency to another at different locations, is now a thing of the past.  The UTC is a welcome change, not just for people who depend on public transport but for everyone to save time, expense and energy, in obtaining their documents conveniently and efficiently in one place.

Recently when I discovered that my mother’s passport did not have a minimum of six month’s validity for travel, I took her to have it renewed on a Sunday morning at the Immigration agency in the UTC.

The dreaded sign I saw at the Special Services counter!
I understand that there is a special Warga Mas fast-lane for senior citizens but was disappointed to see many silver-haired seniors standing in the queue for a number.  The hall was crowded with people both seated and standing, and after I found a seat for my mother, I went to make enquiries at the Perkihidmatan Khas or Special Services desk.  It was, however, unmanned and my heart sank when I read the dreaded sign on the desk, “Sistem Offline.”

I stopped a passing staff to ask about the procedure for senior citizen’s passport renewal and when I asked her again to confirm what she said, she reiterated that Warga Mas still had to join the queue to take a number!

Resigned to the situation, I headed back to the queue for numbers in disbelief because I didn’t think this was considered special treatment for senior citizens.  Back in the queue, I saw a uniformed staff talking to a senior couple and when I overhead their conversation, I jumped right in, declaring that my mother was aged over 80 too.

This staff led us directly to the counter for numbers and when I showed my mother’s old passport and identity card, I was given two pieces of similar queue numbers and told to go directly to counter 1, with the reassuring instruction, “Tak paya queue!”

A family with two, maybe twin babies were being attended to at the counter and I knew that a senior couple was ahead of us so it was only courteous to follow behind them in our no-queue type of queue.  A senior Chinese lady brushed pass me, saying loudly in Mandarin to a younger lady with her that there was no need to queue (pai thui) and I turned to her with a smile and said, “Yes, we should queue.”  Even if she did not understand English, the lady soon figured that they were behind us in our no-queue queue.

I was given two pieces of this queue number that no one
told me that one should be given to the officer at the desk! 
All this time, I was still holding the two pieces of similar queue numbers and it suddenly dawned on me that one piece should be with the officer so that he could call it out when it was our turn.  

[I receive similar queue numbers at the hospital pharmacy to collect my parents’ prescriptions regularly and know that one portion of the queue ticket should be with them while the other was given to me to wait for the number to be called.]  So I boldly stepped up to the desk and placed one of my queue numbers on the desk and the officer calmly put it in sequence next to the numbers on his desk!

I was relieved that we were finally going to be served soon.  When I spotted the lady behind us still holding her two tickets, I told her to put one on the desk so that the officer would attend to her next.  She was clearly quite oblivious as to why she was given two similar numbers and thanked me profusely for the tip.

The Warga Mas no-queue queue was quickly building up and I was concerned that the officer at the number issuing counter, had failed to inform the Warga Mas that one of the two tickets given should be handed over to the desk while they waited to be called.  The inexperienced or those not accompanied by younger family members, could be waiting in their no-queue queue – holding two similar tickets – and may not even be called to the desk to process their documents!

Failure to give this small but important instruction, simply defeated the purpose of having a so-called no-queue, fast-lane for senior citizens. 

Applicants are standing in the hall, probably
because there are insufficient seats
To facilitate the special Warga Mas fast-lane, I suggest to assign more “Goodwill Ambassadors” to guide the senior citizens so that they may have a better and smoother experience at UTC.  Alternatively, explicit instructions may be posted prominently so that seniors and those accompanying them, may read and follow the step-by-step way to obtain their documents.

I propose that chairs close to the Warga Mas fast-lane should be reserved for senior citizens and posters put up to remind people to offer their seats to seniors, mothers with young children or expectant mothers.  While free wifi is an added convenience to stay connected while waiting, it may be abused by users who selfishly occupy the seats with their eyes glued to their gadgets – and ignored the people who may need the seats more than them.

With the year-end holidays just around the corner, the Immigration agency can expect more applicants to renew or issue passports.  My recent experience was certainly an eye-opener and while the UTC is providing a welcome service to the public, there is certainly much room for improvement.

A version of this was published in the December 2015 issue of The Iskandarian

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