While processes and rules are important in streamlining procedures, have we reached the stage where we are now so bogged down by rules that they triumph commonsense? Instead of efficiency, has bureaucracy and red tape denied help to the neediest among us? I ask these questions in the wake of reports of an elderly man who has reportedly been shunted from person to person because of one rule or the other. What happens when rules become counterproductive and illogical? Do we still blindly follow them such that the plight of an old man becomes just another statistic in the mountains of paperwork we now have to push?
In response to a report by Brad Bowyer, a social activist who highlighted the case of an elderly Singaporean citizen, Mr Lim Kee Khoon who has been sleeping rough for the past two months in Henderson Hawker Centre, the Housing Development Board (HDB) has said that they and MSF, Singapore’s Social Service Office, have been in touch with Mr Lim since January 2019 to understand his situation. They also noted receiving appeals from Member of Parliament, Joan Pereira – on 1 and 19 March – on behalf of Mr Lim for his rental application. My question is – does it really take three months to understand that an elderly man is homeless and to do something about that? Has our endless requirement for paperwork dehumanised the situation in a way that defies commonsense?
Further, the HDB has indicated that they are currently helping Mr Lim process rental papers. This leads me to once again ask the inconvenient but obvious question – does it take three months to draft rental papers?
Perhaps, we have streamlined our processes so much that no one is taking ownership for cases anymore. It all becomes “someone else’s” problem. The need to file that particular report taking precedence over the real life experience of someone like Mr Lim.
Now, I am not criticising any one individual for this. But I do think we need to be aware of the pitfalls of our so called efficiency? The efficiency machine fails when there are individuals who are not in the cookie cutter situation and our government bodies must have teams that are able to handle such situations as they arise if they truly want to be people oriented and problem solvers.
In a way, I almost wish that the HDB did not respond in this manner to defend itself because it seems worst that they knew about the situation but yet remains either institutionally unable or unwilling to step up and help a vulnerable citizen speedily.