20111215 Government engaging Singaporeans?

From: phillip ang
Sent: Saturday, December 17, 2011 10:42 PM
To: LEE_HSIEN_LOONG ; v_bala
Cc: theonlinecitizen toc ; <a title="stlocal ; stanley93896999 ; ongqyqy ; newseditor ; news ; Liew Andy ; <a title="lchertan ; jjauto ; jayakumar89 ; bok koh ; <a title="aslav009 ; andrew
Subject: 20111215 Government engaging Singaporeans?

Dear PM Lee

I refer to my replies from the government.

2 A typical reply is one which:

a Never acknowledges the problem in my feedback.
b Sidetracks from the issue raised.
c Allows the problem to be incredibly explained away by the subject of my complaint.
d Has never verified my feedback/no impartial investigation conducted.

3 Numerous letters have been written to the press on ‘replies’ from the government. It appears that government agencies continue to use the same template (above) but allows for some ‘creativity’. The government does not seem to be listening.

4 My latest reply (in bold) from the PUB is illustrative. (below, comments in parantheses are mine)

Dear Mr Philip Ang,

Please refer to your email dated 22 Oct 11 to PMO.

We agree with you that some of the drainage inlets could be choked, especially in areas with heavy leaves shedding.

(Director Tan had seen photos enclosed in my feedback but yet could not even agree that drainage inlets were choked and not ‘could be choked’. A responsible civil servant should have verified my feedback instead of just speculating on the condition of drainage inlets. A half an hour drive/walk would have revealed that a high percentage of drainage inlets are indeed choked. In our ‘garden city’ which areas do not have heavy leaves shedding?)

The PUB does not consider such a drain to be choked. PUB contractor clearing a single drain.

(If they were not choked, the PUB must have wasted taxpayers money clearing an entire street of ‘could be choked’ drainage inlets a few days after my feedback.)

We are pleased to inform you through the joint efforts of PUB-NEA-LTA, we have recently improved the design of drainage inlets along the roads which allow leaves to be cleared easier by mechanical road sweepers. The new inlets design will be progressively implemented to replace the old ones. Also, we have earlier this year, incorporated the use of mechanical suction in our regular maintenance of drainage inlets. We will continue to work towards a more effective way of checking and cleansing such inlets, and also to improve the design.

Regarding the several locations flooded on 20 Oct 2011, we have checked that the causes were mainly due to low-lying nature of the grounds and the heavy storm, for example, the flooding at Bishan St 21. We have an ongoing drainage improvement contract to enlarge the drains and raise the road so as to improve the drainage at the junction of Bishan St 21 and Jalan Pemimpin.

More details on our findings and follow up actions on the recent flash floods are at our website: .

Thank you for highlighting to us the need to maintain drainage inlets properly to prevent flooding.

Tan Nguan Sen

Director

Catchment & Waterways Department

(The rest of the letter is simply PR/damage control? and totally ignores my feedback. I will put it more simply to Director Tan since he was unable to understand the gist of my feedback.

a Why were drainage inlets not cleared for months despite recent severe flooding? Which civil servant was responsible? Why was no one accountable?

b Did the PUB (or other government agencies?) partially seal the entrance of a drainage inlet with concrete? Why?

c Since there are thousands of drainage inlets which are obviously partially or totally choked due to a lack of maintenance, what action has been taken? (contractor not to blame as PUB did not conduct regular checks)

5 PM Lee’s rhetoric on the need to engage Singaporeans may remain just that because the government (PAP) has very little experience in engagement. Its ‘replies’ are worded to please its own ears and however much we may disagree, we are forced into acceptance.

6 Suggestions for meaningful engagement.

i Be upfront on the issue and acknowledge the problem.

ii Conduct an impartial investigation into the feedback using an external agency. (set up one now)

iii Never forward the complaint (feedback) to the source of the problem. (if an external agency had verified my feed, PUB would have been taken to task and improvements would have been made to the system)

iv Reveal actions taken against civil servants who have not acted responsibly.

v Never attempt to absolve blame and force Singaporeans to accept an incredible ‘explanation’.

7 Singaporeans are not unreasonable to the extent that we do not understand the relevant agencies are presently overwhelmed due to the inclement weather. (tree pruning and drainage works everywhere!) We also understand that drainage inlets were not designed to cope with the present rainfall and that it takes time for new ones to be constructed.

8 However, there is no excuse for the rank and file who did not discharge their responsibility and directors who are not aware of fundamental problems. These issues cannot be conveniently explained away if the government seriously wants engagement.

9 I recently requested for no reply to my feedback because almost all the replies I have received were not pertinent. The government should reconsider its manner of ‘engaging’ Singaporeans.

Conclusion

There appears to be no accountability at the PUB.

Thank you.

Regards

Phillip Ang

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