Municipal Services Office ropes in more agencies

Municipal Services Office ropes in more agencies
The left of the pathway used to be managed by the National Environment Agency; the middle pathway, a park connector, was under the purview of the National Parks Board; and the portion to the right belonged to the Land Transport Authority. Now, the overlapping duties are done with and NEA is in charge of cleaning of the entire area.

THE coordinating office for municipal issues will link up with three more government agencies, as well as two town councils, to improve management of problems on the ground.

From next month, the Municipal Services Office (MSO) will work with the Building Construction Authority (BCA), the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to handle issues associated with construction work and illegal parking.

This should accelerate the shift from an "agency-based approach to an issues-based one", said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, who heads the MSO, in Parliament yesterday.

"It's not an easy move. It means breaking down silos amongst agencies, working closely with one another, and arriving at a consensus on how to deal with feedback."

The MSO was set up last October to address what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described as a lack of inter-agency coordination in municipal matters. He cited the example of a walkway in Bukit Gombak - the site of a now infamous discarded fishball stick - that was not cleaned due to a lack of clarity on which agency was responsible.

It currently works with eight agencies, including the Housing Board and the police. Collectively, they handle around 42,000 municipal cases every month.

But Ms Fu noted that government agencies are not the only bodies which handle municipal services.

The MSO's challenges involve getting agencies and town councils to acknowledge ownership of the cases referred to them, provide progress updates, and follow MSO-issued guidelines on how to resolve cases that involve multiple entities, she said.

Responding to MPs' suggestions for the office to coordinate with town councils - which maintain and clean common areas in HDB estates - Ms Fu said that the MSO has just started trials with Jurong and Holland-Bukit Panjang town councils earlier this month.

"If successful, we will invite all town councils to participate in the working arrangements with MSO, without weakening (their) autonomy and authority in service delivery and in setting their service standards," she said.

Ms Fu also announced that the National Parks Board (NParks) will become the central agency for public greenery maintenance from June.

Currently, different agencies handle greenery-related issues depending on who owns the land. As such, they end up engaging different contractors to maintain the greenery, even that in the same vicinity.

"This is not ideal. We can do better," said Ms Fu. As such, NParks will take over grass-cutting works from SLA, national water agency PUB and HDB.

This article was first published on March 11, 2015.
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