New office to tackle estate matters

New office to tackle estate matters
CASE OF THE FISHBALL STICK: WHO IS IN CHARGE? South West District mayor Low Yen Ling, while investigating why a walkway in Bukit Gombak had not been cleaned, found out that three different agencies managed three different parts of the walkway.

The longstanding problem of frustrated residents being given the runaround between different agencies over estate maintenance may soon be a thing of the past.

A Municipal Services Office will be set up to get different public agencies to work more closely together, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The office will help serve residents in a more seamless way, especially when responsibilities are split across public bodies, he said in his National Day Rally speech. It is part of making Singapore an "outstanding city" that is planned and run well, Mr Lee added.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu will oversee the new office, which will be under the Ministry of National Development (MND). She will work with MND Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

The office will coordinate multiple agencies, such as the Land Transport Authority (LTA), PUB, National Environment Agency (NEA) and the National Parks Board. More details will be given out later.

The move to plug the gaps between agencies comes as residents lament that complaints and requests can bounce between several agencies instead of being quickly resolved.

Some progress has been made on this front, "but we have not arrived", said Mr Lee.

He cited the experience of South West District mayor Low Yen Ling, who had to call and meet several agencies in order to find out why a walkway in Bukit Gombak had been left dirty for some time.

She found out that a fishball stick had been left at the walkway for more than a day because different parts of the walkway were managed by different agencies. NEA managed the slope to the left of the walkway, while NParks took charge of the park connector in the middle, and LTA was responsible for the pavement on the right.

The fishball stick had fallen on the roadside to the right, which was cleaned every two days.

The issue was eventually resolved, but the experience had been "frustrating and difficult" for the mayor.

"Can you imagine if you're an ordinary citizen trying to solve such a problem and running around the different agencies? It's not the way we should be operating and we have to do better," said Mr Lee.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Zainudin Nordin, who is a former mayor and a former town council chairman, told The Straits Times that town councils are responsible for managing common areas in Housing Board estates.

"There are parts inside housing estates that don't fall under the ambit of the town council.

"People don't realise but roads, drains, bus stops are... not part of the town council's responsibility," he said.

He welcomed the setting up of a central office, which he saw as a "cockpit" from which to ensure that nothing falls through the gaps.


This article was first published on August 18, 2014.
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