Andrew Loh

Earlier, Leong Sze Hian and I wrote an article questioning Aljunied Town Council’s (ATC) intention to raise its Service and Conservancy charges (S&CC) to address “hardcore litterbugs” in the “dirtiest precincts”.

On Sunday, Aljunied Town Council Chairman Cynthia Phua clarified that the town council will not be raising its S&CC.

However, Phua’s clarification is a confusing one.

It shows up the lack of communication between her, the chairman of the town council, and the officials at the town council (TC).

It seems that the officials at the TC did not understand the purpose of the “trash index” which ATC intends to introduce next year. They thought the index would be used to identify the dirtiest precincts which will then be made to pay higher S&CC.

But Phua now says that the index is only to be used to identify such precincts so that “the staff can clean them and residents encouraged to maintain cleanliness.”

Lets recap what the Straits Times reported Phua as having said on May 5 and her clarification on May 11.

Here is what Phua said on May 5 and on May 11.

May 5, 2008, Straits Times, “Aljunied trash index aims to wipe out litterbugs.

Conservancy fees may be tied to index, with dirtiest precincts paying more”:

TIRED of hardcore litterbugs, Aljunied GRC plans to start measuring the cleanliness of its precincts under a new litter index to be introduced in October.

Officials also said they will consider raising the conservancy charges for the dirtiest precincts to cover the extra work that goes into maintaining them.

Aljunied Town Council chairman Cynthia Phua said that the index would be based on the cleanliness of lifts, the condition of public property and how large pieces of rubbish are disposed.

She told The Straits Times yesterday that the council would tie conservancy charges to the index only if it found an objective measure of cleanliness.

The plan is under consideration and would not be confirmed until next year, she said.

(Emphasis mine.)

May 11, 2008, Straits Times, “Litter index not linked to conservancy charges”:

Clearing the air yesterday, Madam Phua told The Sunday Times: ‘I mentioned that the litter index and conservancy charges can be linked in terms of dollar amount because there will be an increased cost to cleaning dirtier estates.

‘However, that does not mean that the Aljunied Town Council intends to link them. I would like to make it very clear that the Aljunied Town Council never had the intention of punishing the residents with higher conservancy charges.’

She added that the town council may use the index to identify the dirtiest precincts. The staff can clean them and residents encouraged to maintain cleanliness. The index has not even been drafted.

(Emphasis mine.)

This whole mini-fiasco brings into question the accuracy of what the ST reported, besides the confusing statements from officials at ATC, including its chairman’s latest clarification which itself is a confusing mix of rhetoric and contradicting statements.

According to Phua, the index can be linked to the S&CC charges – but ATC does not intend to do so.

Nonetheless, the index will be introduced next year.

Still, it does not explain why Phua said the following, if the ST’s report is accurate:

She told The Straits Times yesterday that the council would tie conservancy charges to the index only if it found an objective measure of cleanliness.

I guess we’ll all have to wait till next year to know the truth. In the meantime, it’ll be good for Aljunied residents to keep a copy of the two ST reports for future reference.

In the meantime, just take it that it was all an honest mistake.

Read also: Aljunied Town Council – Taking the easy way out?

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