Does People’s Association feel accountable to the public on the services it provide?

I would agree with an opinion shared on TODAYonline that the People’s Association (PA) should not shut down its public services as a result of an internal event.

The writer noted that PA announced that its units such as community centres and clubs as well as Community Development Councils (CDCs) will be closed from 8.30am to 3pm on Friday because all its staff members will be attending an annual workplan seminar.

He wrote,

They are funded to provide a service to the public in the same way as are hospitals, the police and schools.

How can it be that the undertaking of an internal organisational event warrants a closing of their services to the public?

The issue here is not the length of time the services are suspended, but the principle behind such a closure.

The police and the Ministry of Education also conduct workplan events, but would we accept their temporary cessation of operations as a trade-off? Clearly not.

I understand that staff may need to attend annual training sessions or seminars. However, that can be rolled out in a scheduled fashion with staff members taking turns to attend such events. They do not all have to attend at the same time. At the end of the day, they are funded by the public purse and as such the public has a say on whether or not it agrees to such closures. It should not be arbitrarily decided and dictated by the PA. That shows a certain disregard for the public which is ironic given that it is the public that funds its existence!

As rightly pointed out by the opinion piece, there may be many (especially the retired senior citizens) who rely on PA-affiliated or PA organised events as part of their daily routine. It is therefore not right to simply disrupt these routines without consultation. I understand that the public was notified of the closure. However to be notified on a Tuesday that services will be suspended on a Friday is too short a notice period I would think! Especially if such services are relied upon by certain members of the public as part of their daily life!

To me, this underlines a serious issue within the mentality of the PA. It seems to be that although they are funded by the public, they do not feel accountable to the public at all. There have been controversies in the past whereby the PA have been accused of doing the bidding of the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) despite being funded by the public. In other words, while the public is its paymaster, the PA takes instructions from another boss even if it is contrary to what the public paymaster wants. Does this incident highlight a pervading mentality within the PA that it is in no way, shape or form accountable to the public?

Did it even cross their minds that there may be members of the public who may rely on their services? Do they need to be reminded that it is public funds that enable their continued existence? It is simply callous on the part of the PA to announce on such short notice that all staff have to attend an internal event. Firstly, there should have been a consultation. Secondly, there should have been a longer notice period for people to make alternative plans. Last but not least, staff could attend such training events separately thereby meeting both the training needs and the needs of the public whom the PA is supposed to serve.