Pharmacists have been facing many difficulties after trying to renew or apply for their annual retention certificates (ARC) due to the inefficient online licensing system, the Business Licensing Electronic Support System (BLESS), set up by the government in 2008.

The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) released a statement including survey results that showed 77.6% of respondents often encountered problems when using the online system to apply for business licences. 65.3% had yet to receive the ARC they applied for.

The statement also said that although BLESS was meant to ease application, many complaints stemmed from the system's lack of user friendliness, recurrent system down times, frequent failures to record payments and registrations, as well as the failure to reach the helpline/helpdesk.

Glitches in system makes it unfair for pharmacists

Putrajaya had set 31 December as the deadline for all registered pharmacists to apply for the ARC through BLESS for the year 2016. Failure to submit applications by then would result in pharmacists being slapped with a RM100 penalty. However, with the glitches in the system, many have complained that it was not fair.

"Last year, I had to pay twice after my first attempt was not recorded and I was logged out automatically.

"This year, after failing a few times to reach the payment, I was finally able to pay successfully. However, it has been two months and I have yet to receive my ARC," said pharmacist Abdul Aziz Faza.

"Despite having submitted my payment, the BLESS system showed my payment as still pending. I will have to claim a refund while I resubmit my application with a new payment as there is no option to save and edit," said senior pharmacist Mujahid Ismail, who experienced similar problems.

MPS urges LFM to address problems quickly and fairly

MPS president, Amrahi Buang said MPS had written to the Lembaga Farmasi Malaysia (LFM), which is regulated by the government.

"LFM should consider incorporating the ARC application as a module under the MyPharm-C system, or engage with a vendor that has a reliable track record.

"BLESS is overloaded due to a high volume of users, who are not just pharmacists," he added.

He also urged LFM to set up a proper complaint channel for pharmacists to submit a proof of submission so that they were not subject to a late fine. It was also urged that LFM should extend the 31 December deadline for the ARC application for current issues to be completely resolved.

BLESS was launched in 2008 by Pemudah - a government agency set up to cut through application red tapes - and the Implementation Coordination Unit of the Prime Minister's Department to develop an internet-based system for the application of business licences.

In 2014, it included the pharmaceutical sector to increase speed, transparency and predictability of the application and approval of licences. The system also shows the time taken by various departments to process the applications to ensure that the government department and agencies adhere to their client's charter. MIMS

Read more:
Addressing the need for more pharmacists in Malaysia
Violence against pharmacists a serious matter, says MPS president
"Highly competitive market" causing Malaysian community pharmacists to barely stay afloat