Foreign workers hiring process should be handled by a single government body

KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign workers' employment should be managed by a single processing body on a platform to ease applications and prevent possible fraudulent labour recruitment.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said having a single online end-to-end system would help to remove duplication of processes, procedures and records; allow easy tracking and monitoring of processing and payment; and create a central repository of foreign workers database.

It would help remove unnecessary costs, especially rent seeking or the practice of manipulating public policy.

Soh said the proposal will reduce discretionary approvals and inconsistencies in decision-making, while ensuring reliability and consistency in information and communication, he said.

He was commenting on the issues involving the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS), which was highlighted in the 2022 Auditor-General's Report yesterday.

In joining the chorus of calling the government to discontinue service of a private entity in managing the system, Soh said FMM never supported the foreign worker application process to be handled by a non-government agency due to concerns on "possible abuse and confidential data manipulation in the hands of rent-seeking entrepreneurs".

"Through various engagements with the government, the FMM has always reiterated that the foreign worker application process must only be with the Human Resources Ministry.

"FMM is of the same view especially in ensuring sound governance of the foreign worker management system. A single processing agency or a One Stop Agency for foreign workers would be ideal."

Soh said the current processing foreign workers is separated into two phases. He said by right, the first phase should be purely a matter for the Human Resources Ministry, while the second phase covers security issues under the purview of the Home Ministry.

The process is fragmented and handled under different systems which can give rise to governance issues, he added.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said applications of foreign workers through the FWCMS were only currently being made by Bangladesh as the other 14 source countries were not ready to use it.

FWCMS, as well as the Integrated Foreign Workers Management System (ePPAx) could be implemented successfully if authorities had consulted stakeholders before implementing them, he said.

"Views and feedback of the stakeholders, especially employers are critical as they are the system's users.

"The end-user buy-in is critical as without the support of the eventual users of the systems, they would not achieve the desired goals."

He said it was critical for the government to determine which ministry will be fully responsible to manage the ePPAx and FWCMS.

He said having one ministry to be fully in charge of ePPAx and FWCMS would simplify and streamline the processes.

The systems should be developed to simplify the processes and to facilitate recruitment of foreign workers, he said.

"There is no point in having them if they're not able to simplify the processes involved and the government needs to allocate further financial resources," he said.

Yesterday, Association of Employment Agencies Malaysia vice-president Suresh Tan said the government should consider doing away with the system, as its implementation management agreement was yet to be signed.

He also raised doubt over the legitimacy of processes done via FWCMS, of which the government did not spend public fund in getting the system developed and maintained.

He said despite different modules provided in the system, employers were still required to submit some applications such as work visa separately at the Immigration Department.

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