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New Bill allows NEA to appoint auxiliary officers

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will be able to appoint auxiliary officers and give them certain enforcement powers under a new Bill introduced yesterday.

The National Environment Agency (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill also gives NEA officers or employees more powers, allowing them to photograph or take a video of any offence under laws related to the environment.

14 cases of sexual misconduct by educators

Fourteen cases of sexual misconduct by educators in schools were reported to the police and prosecuted in the last five years, said Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary.

He added that any educator whose conduct raises "genuine concern", or who is found to have breached professional boundaries may be dismissed or redeployed to roles where they do not interact with students.

This is the case even when investigations are inconclusive, or when there is insufficient evidence to prosecute, said Dr Janil in response to Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC), who asked what is being done to protect students when investigations do not lead to charges.

Educators who are under investigation are also suspended from the teaching service so that they are separated from students.

Private schools closely watched

Four private schools have been taken to court and six were ordered to close down for flouting regulations since the private education sector watchdog, the Council for Private Education (CPE), was set up in 2009.

Eight schools also did not meet the CPE's criteria for private education providers and had their application to renew their status denied, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.

The CPE makes regular checks on and on-site inspections at private schools to ensure they comply with regulations. An investigative unit it set up in 2014 also tries to spot potential issues early, he added.

There are about 300 registered private schools now, and about 14,000 Singaporeans enrol in them each year.

Mr Ong was answering a question from Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) on how CPE polices the private school sector.

Give Sports Hub time, says Grace Fu

The Sports Hub has been operating for less than two years and is "still in its start-up phase", said Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu.

The Government is giving it time to find its feet and respond to feedback from stakeholders and the public, she added.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) had asked why the Sports Hub was not attracting more bookings, and whether its pricing is an issue.

Ms Fu said the operator is still "sorting out the operational problems and understanding the costs of operations". But it has "acknowledged the challenges faced" and has taken into consideration "regular feedback" from her ministry to improve operations.

Most BTO applicants in non-mature estates get flats

From 2013 to last year, about nine in 10 first-timer families - those who have never owned a subsidised flat - were successful in applying for a Build-to-Order (BTO) flat in a non-mature estate. For second-timers, or those who have owned a subsidised flat before, the success rate was about seven in 10.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said this was due to flat supply having been ramped up from 2011 to 2013, which cleared the demand backlog for first-timers.

He was replying to Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), who asked for BTO success rates. But Mr Wong did not reveal the overall success rate, which includes applications for flats in mature estates.

This article was first published on January 29, 2016.
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