20120408 What engagement is not

From: phillip ang
Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2012 2:37 PM
To: LEE_HSIEN_LOONG ; KHAI_Yann_Lin ; khawbw ; lui_tuck_yew ; PSD PS21 (PSD)
Cc: zblocal ; theonlinecitizen toc ; <a title="stlocal ; stanley93896999 ; ongqyqy ; nicole.rebecca.seah ; newseditor ; news ; Liew Andy ; <a title="lchertan ; ken_dxb ; jayakumar89 ; gerald.giam ; choonhock ; bok koh ; <a title="andrew ; SMRT Corporate Communications
Subject: 20120408 What engagement is not

Dear PM Lee

I refer to CNA article “Government has changed how it engages Singaporeans, says PM Lee” on 4 April.

2 PM Lee may be sincere in wanting to engage Singaporeans but translating it into action has proven to be a monumental task.

3 This is due to decades of ‘talking down’ to daft Singaporeans, deciding what is right without consultation and not minding what the people think.

4 I will highlight some of my recent experiences of ‘engagement’, followed by suggestions:

5 HDB (3 months ago)

When more than 10 ‘specially designed’ signboards within 20 blocks of flats were invisible to both HDB and TC officers, it should be evident to the authorities that some officers are walking blindly in the estate daily. There appears to be no procedures and no accountability when the HDB’s reply trivialises my feedback. (below)

We refer to your email of 26 Jan 2012 to our Prime Minster, Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Minister of National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan.

2. We wish to inform you that the Pasir Ris – Punggol Town Council has arranged their term contractor to replace the affected signboard in the estates.

3. Please feel free to contact the Pasir Ris – Punggol Town Council at Tel: 65854938 or email: pasirris@prpg-tc.org.sg to feedback on estate maintenance matters.

Yours sincerely,

Li Suping . Estates Officer
Pasir Ris Branch Office . Housing Administration Department . Tel: 65004492 Ext 56592
Housing & Development Board

Invisible for 2 years

Suggestions

i Don’t trivialise any issue – manager/director must account for how it happened, not an officer.
ii Be upfront about mistakes, acknowledge and explain how the situation arose. (all of us do make mistakes)
iii Provide brief information on what actions have been taken, who was held accountable (no need for names) and
HDB’s plan to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents (regular monthly/quarterly estate inspection etc.)
iv HDB could perhaps work closer with TCs to avoid duplication.
iv Have the courtesy to say thank you.

6 LTA (3 months ago)

The LTA has allowed indiscriminate parking of bicycles, mostly chained to pillars along 6 ft linkways, public walkways and practically all its structures ie traffic lights, lamp posts, traffic signs etc. LTA’s reply :

….While indiscriminately parked bicycles within public streets are unsightly, they do not necessarily obstruct pedestrian movements along linkways and public walkways.

One or two isolated cases may be unsightly and cause little obstruction but….

..in numbers at every linkway beside MRT stations, these are clearly obstructions to commuters which the LTA should not attempt to deny.

Is the LTA giving the green light for these structures to double up as bicycle racks just because “they do not necessarily obstruct pedestrian movements along linkways and public walkways”?

Suggestions

i Be upfront and again do not trivialise feedback with ridiculous excuses.
ii Identify weaknesses in the system ie. lacking manpower, enforcement etc. and verify how bad the situation is before replying.

iii If possible, provide evidence to contradict feedback ie. only a handful of cases, exceptions etc.
iv Explain actions taken where accountability is concerned. (almost all the time, no civil servant seems to be responsible eg. flooding)
v Provide a reasonable time frame to resolve problem. **
vi Follow up.

I hope there is no need to highlight other government agencies.

7 I will now mention a PTO ie. the SMRT which is 54 per cent government owned.

My correspondence, in chronological order.

27 Feb 12 – My question to the SMRT – who categorizes polytechnic students – the government or transport companies?

29 Feb 12 – SMRT says query referred to Transitlink

10 Mar 12 – Informed SMRT there was no reply from Transitlink

15 Mar – Transitlink’s vague reply to my query – “The travel concession scheme for tertiary students is owned by the public transport
operators and administered by TransitLink”.

15 Mar – Informed SMRT that reply to my query was vague.

20 Mar – SMRT provided answer itself.

(I find it strange that as a PTO, the SMRT needed to refer my query to Transitlink)

Suggestions

i Any simple query should not take more than a couple of days as correspondence no longer by snail mail.
ii The man in the street, like myself, understands and appreciates only straightforward answers.

8 The government should relook how it engages the public on feedback. There should be a set of guidelines for all government agencies. Resolving a problem/providing an upfront reply should be prioritised over face saving. It is impossible to resolve a problem without acknowledgement. Please consider all the above suggestions.

Thank you.

Regards

Phillip Ang

** Any reasonable person understands it will take months to resolve a problem which has festered for years. The government’s ‘ongoing process’ tagline has been overused and the attitude of civil servants have hardly improved despite much feedback. TCs are one very good example – there is hardly any engagement and an overreliance on posters to work wonders.

.

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