Photo showing the carparks being reserved and lots being occupied by cars, one of which belonging to Minister Ong Ye Kung

Member of public shares photo of school’s carpark reserved for Education Minister and other VIPs, asks why they don’t have discipline to park their cars at the HDB carpark

A member of the public has shared with TOC about how carparks were reserved for VIPs at Orchid Park Secondary School (OPSS) the night before the racial harmony day celebration on 20 July and questioned why didn’t the Education Minister Ong Ye Kung along with the other superintendents of the North Zones have the discipline to park their cars at the HDB carpark which was just meters away from the school.

The contributor wrote, “Early morning, parking spaces in school were already reserved for them and teachers were told to park elsewhere (see photos). The current implementation of [carpark] charges in schools after 1 Aug has no gantry (unlike higher institutions), so any visitors (Ministers inclusive) park for free whereas those who make contributions to their schools everyday (e.g. teachers, canteen operators, coaches, etc.) are made to pay for parking charges. This is exactly MP Seah Kian Peng’s point on why this is an insult to teachers. Apparently, clean wage policy only applies to teachers but not Superintendents and above. So much for clean wage policy and self-discipline.”

Checking against the submitted photo against a prior incident where Minister Ong was said to have parked at the fire engine access of the National Library, the cars shown in the photos have the same number plate.

Furthermore, Minister Ong also shared on his Facebook page that he was at the OPSS on the morning of 20 July which would further support the contributor’s story.

It was earlier revealed that Elected Members of Parliament (MPs) pay S$365 for an annual permit that allows them to park at Housing & Development Board (HDB) car parks when doing constituency work and at Parliament House when on official business. This was after the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s announcement in March that teachers at all national schools and junior colleges will have to pay when they park their vehicles on the school premises starting from 1 August following a carpark policy review for schools. To park in uncovered lots, teachers will have to pay for $75 a month during the school term and $15 a month during the school holidays in June, November and December.

In an earlier Facebook post on 25 May, Minister Ong wrote,

“A few years ago, the AGO pointed out that free parking in education institutions constitutes a staff benefit and is against the civil service’s clean wage policy.

This finding went against years of MOE practice. Yet we have to respect our internal system of checks and balances. We cannot pick and choose which finding to address or comply with – we take them all seriously. This is about upholding the value of self-discipline.

Furthermore, the whole public service subscribes to the discipline of having a clean wage, so every public officer knows that his salary is all he gets – there are no hidden benefits. This is one of our core practices to ensure a clean government. As Kian Peng said, clean wage surely must be a moral idea. Indeed, it is.

We took some time, discussed with educators, sought their understanding, and decided on how best to follow up and address the finding. So from August this year, car park charges will be implemented in schools. We have explained to our educators the need to abide by the clean wage policy, and that we cannot be giving a benefit just to one group of teachers who drive. Free parking is also at odds with the rest of the civil service.

In the end, we must recognise that charging for parking stems from our duty to address the AGO’s findings, of abiding by our system of internal self-discipline. Charging for parking, therefore, is primarily a decision borne out of duty.”

The contributor wrote, “Minister himself, as an elected member of parliament, is already enjoying the heavily subsidized HDB parking of $1/day at all HDB cp.” and noted, “If without the implementation of gantry and yet we can generate a potential revenue of S$10M/yr, imagine how much more revenue we could generate with gantries. The revenue generated will be more than enough to offset the cost of setting up the gantry system. Are we going to wait till the next AGO report on Superintendents and above getting hidden benefits on school parking before such fair implementation can take place?”

The letter ended with, “Please help to create awareness on how unfairly the implementation of parking charges in schools are being implemented. Thank you!”

TOC has written to Minister Ong and will include his replies when he responds.