The Taichi Department

By A Singaporean in Australia

Sometime in the near future, Singaporeans can expect a new agency called Municipal Services Office (MSO). This was announced by PM Lee in his NDP Rally last night. The core mission of the agency was to improve service delivery to residents by helping them to coordinate among different agencies.

He cited an example where one resident in Bukit Gombak complained to the Mayor about a fishball stick on a walkway which had not been removed by cleaners for two days. The Mayor had to make multiple calls to and held meetings with several agencies before she established what happened. The fishball stick was in an area demarcated under the LTA, where cleaning was scheduled once every two days, thus the fishball stick was still around on the second day.

On a smaller scale, a good condo manager or a corporate facilities manager would know exactly who to call when something breaks down. It is part and parcel of the job so I’m a tad surprised that a town Mayor didn’t have basic urban planning knowledge to know there are demarcations across residential land that separate the responsibilities among agencies such as the Town Council, HDB and PUB, just to name a few more not illustrated in the PM’s photograph. Since the MSO is going to be set up not just to help Mayors who don’t know their stuff but also residents who are not expected to know who exactly to call for help, fair play. At least we know how new jobs can be created because existing agencies cannot communicate with one another or help a resident liaise issues brought up among themselves.

One thing that disturbed me deeply was how the resident could have picked up the fishball stick and chuck it in the nearest bin if its presence bothered him or her that much. I don’t know if that is a sense of entitlement or laziness. It could be both or something else, a “Not my job, someone else should do it” mentality. That often leads to a lot of costs involved to solve a very cheap problem with a solution that takes minutes or even seconds to implement. In short, a lack of civic mindedness. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is common in Singapore these days.

Municipal Services Office 2 - A Singaporean in AustraliaTake an example of the town I used to live in when I was in Singapore. If you have keen eyes, you would have noticed that Choa Chu Kang is miss-spelled on the bus stop signage. Obviously it was a mistake made by either the folks in the Roads Department of LTA or the vendor contracted to print the signage. Who made the mistake is not the key here because human makes mistake all the time. What was disappointing was the fact that there must be at least five parties across the supply chain that could have spotted the mistake and inform the client about it. From the approving officer to the printer, the packer, installation contractor and the commissioning officer. They couldn’t be all blind so I’d assume that no one really bothered it was wrong as long as they did their own work right.

Soon enough, a resident would be concerned that his town had been erroneously renamed to, “Smelly house by a drain,” and call his Mayor up. Just wondering if the Mayor would call LTA himself or wait for the MSO to be set up because it is now their job to communicate with the agencies.

This article first appeared in a blog entry by A Singaporean in Australia