Recently, a Malaysian man and his Vietnamese wife reported through the press that they were given a fake marriage certificate by the agent arranging their marriage. The behaviour of the agent is truly disgusting. But I believe that such a situation arose partly because of the fault of the National Registration Department (NRD).
Let me relate my own experience with the NRD on the matter of registering my marriage about 15 years ago. My wife and I went through a marriage ceremony in her country but as we are planning to live in Malaysia, we decided to register in Malaysia (where I am a citizen).
We went to the NRD in my home town to inquire and make arrangement to register our marriage. The officer we approached questioned the intention of our marriage and gave all sort of reasons why we could not register in Malaysia.
At that point, a relative suggested that we should approach a local politician to help us out. We did not take up the suggestion, but decided to register at the NRD in the city where I was working at that time. Luckily, the officer there was more professional and the registration went smoothly.
Some NRD officers may have made it difficult for Malaysians marrying foreigners to register their marriages. This may explain why Malaysian-Vietnamese couples who went through arranged marriages put their trust in agents to register their marriages instead of doing it themselves. This may be an example of a situation where people are put in a vulnerable position because the civil service is not doing its job properly.
I do not believe that it is the duty of NRD officers to investigate whether or not a marriage to be registered is a genuine one. Their job is to ensure that the marriage is registered following proper procedures (such as the presence of witnesses). To determine whether a marriage is 'real' is the responsibility of the immigration department when the foreign spouse applies for permanent residence status. That, of course, is another ordeal altogether.
In spite of all this, I do support an increase in salary for civil servants (especially those in the lower income category). But at the same time, I do hope that the increase (if granted) would spur them to do their job in a fair and professional manner, to all people who need their service.