F&B sector roasts Miti over CIMS 3.0 debacle

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If your favourite take-out food outlet is not operating today, it is likely because they are struggling with the new approval system handled by the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti).

Currently, all businesses that want to operate during the current “total lockdown” period must obtain written approval through Miti’s Covid-19 intelligent management system (CIMS 3.0).

However, two days into the lockdown, access to the website is spotty, often returning a “503 Backend fetched failed” or a “Ralat 500” error message.

When contacted, leaders of the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) and Coffee Shop Operators Association expressed frustration, anxiety, and disappointment with CIMS 3.0.

Presma president Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said he assigned two staff to apply for CIMS 3.0 approval since May 31, only to succeed at 6am today (June 2).

“We have been struggling for two days. I am informed that less than 100 of our approximately 12,500 members managed to key in their details.

“Luckily, the authorities have not started enforcement yet,” he told Malaysiakini.

Jawahar said he is now in an anxious wait for CIMS 3.0 approval which will provide him with the crucial approval letter with a QR code which his staff needs in order to pass police roadblocks to come to work.

He urged the government to exempt eateries from needing to get approval from Miti to operate during the lockdown.

“This will also make things easier for Miti too as their website won’t be congested like this,” he said.

“We want to follow the rules, but the government must understand the problems faced by us too. We urge them to reduce the red tape,” said Jawahar.

Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association president Wong Teu Hoon said he was unaware of any association member who had managed to obtain CIMS 3.0 approval as of this morning.

He estimated that more than 50 percent of his association members chose to close since yesterday instead of taking the risk of being fined.

“We have approximately 20,000 members nationwide with over half of them above 60 years old who are not Internet savvy. I myself have my son helping me apply for approval online,” he said.

“Why is this happening? There was no issue in the past as we didn’t have to apply for permission then,” he said.

“On the ground, the directives we received were unclear. In Malacca, we were told by local authorities we could operate as usual but our members from other states were told they have to apply for Miti approval,” he said.

Wong, who is also the president of Pan Malaysia Koo Soo Restaurants and Chefs Association, said about 10,000 restaurant operators encountered similar issues when they tried to get approval on the Miti website.

SME Association of Malaysia vice-president Chin Chee Seong told Malaysiakini that unlike previous movement control orders (MCOs), the latest one involved an added complexity since food and beverage operators had to go through the CIMS 3.0 system as well.

Chin said his association was in frequent communication with Miti and understood there was a stringent vetting process involved.

He said some association members, even though they were in essential services, were forced to shutter yesterday since they could not obtain CIMS 3.0 approval.

“A lot of them are not opening, especially F&B outlets… They say ‘no point’ since it is the first day (of the MCO) and a lot of people are staying at home,” he said.

Jawahar urged the government to cut the red tape for the food and beverage sector because many in the food business were not tech-savvy.

“The operators want to follow the rules, but the government must understand the problem faced by us. We urge the government to reduce the red tape, no need for this sector to apply (for approval) as we are one of the 17 essential services.

“This will also make things easier for Miti…we urge the government to consider this,” he said. – Malaysiakini