Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech 2014, brought up a story of a fishball stick being left along the walkway at Bukit Gombak MRT Station and had not been cleared after two days,
The reason for the stick for not being cleared after two days as given by Mr Lee was,
“On the left of the walkway is a slope, (which is overseen by) the NEA (National Environment Agency); in the middle is a park connector, under NParks (National Parks Board); on the right is a pavement next to the road, under the LTA (Land Transport Authority),”
Mr Lee explained that as the cleaners engaged by each of these agencies have different cleaning schedules, “the fishball stick was on the roadside, and the roadside is only cleared every two days”.
He went further to use this incident to show how the Government still has some way to go in getting different agencies to work more closely together, especially when responsibilities are being split.
A Municipal Services Office (MSO) under the Ministry of National Development was announced at the rally to be set up, which will coordinate several government agencies and “single-mindedly focus on service delivery”.
The agencies are the Land Transport Authority (LTA), National Environmental Agency (NEA), National Parks (NParks), national water agency Public Utilities Board (PUB), the Housing and Development Board (HDB), the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the police. However town councils were not mentioned in the MSO framework.
When news of the rat infestation at Bukit Batok broke out, public relations manager for Jurong Town Council, Amanda Lee Yan Jun wrote to Today on 20 December and said,
"We refer to the letter “Bukit Batok rat problem started with the dogs” (Dec 19). Jurong Town Council wishes to clarify that the land is State land, managed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) as an agent for the Singapore Land Authority.
The joint response by the HDB, the National Environment Agency, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and Jurong Town Council informed readers that steps are being taken to control the rat infestation. (“Extermination of rats at Bukit Batok to take up to a week”; Dec 19)"
For a better illustration of the scenario indicated by Jurong Town Council, we can use the same graphical representation by Mr Lee in his rally speech as seen below.
Despite the Jurong Town Council being less than 200 metres away from the incident site, the town council had problems noticing a rat colony of up to hundreds exist.
And now the town council is saying that it has nothing to do with the rat issue as that place where the rats dwell is taken care by HDB. Nevermind the fact that it is less than 50 metres from land under the responsibility of the town council.
So now with the new rat infestation incident happening at Bukit Batok, Mr Lee probably would have no problem finding another story to illustrate the issue of inter-agency work at his next national day rally speech in 2015.
And he probably might consider having town councils being part of the Municipal Services Office framework after this incident.