Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Grace Fu: Municipal office ‘not catch-all body, but for complex cases’

New Municipal Services Office to serve residents seamlessly
The new office aims to resolve the problem of residents getting frustrated when their complaints or requests bounce back and forth between several agencies

Mr Lee said that even though Ms Low sorted out the issue, she found it to be a frustrating and difficult experience, even though she is the Mayor.

Minister Grace Fu will oversee the Municipal Services Office, and work with Minister Khaw Boon Wan. More details on the MSO will be announced later.

He said the Government would try to do a better job, but added that citizens also had a role to play in making Singapore a better home.



Municipal office ‘not catch-all body, but for complex cases’

“If you’re already used to calling your local HDB office or your local police post, we really don’t want to cause you to have to relearn another number,” added Ms Fu. “So it has to be something you can call and has a way to direct your feedback to the right agencies, but not one that requires you to call only one number.”

How the MSO will receive feedback is still being studied, including the use of mobile applications.

Asked how the MSO differs from other initiatives that were previously put in place, such as the Government’s “no wrong door” policy to put the public in touch with the right agency, Ms Fusaid: “It’s not about finding a right door. We also want to see how we can improve public service delivery, particularly on the customer service part.”


Municipal Services Office not meant to be sole feedback channel

“If you’re already used to calling your local HDB office, or your local police post, we really don’t want to cause you to have to relearn another number,” she said. “So it has to be something that you can call, and has a way to direct your feedback to the right agencies , but not one that requires you to call only one number.”

Ms Fu added that the office has to provide convenience for the public and not delay the feedback process.

She said one of the main purposes of the MSO would be to help make it easier for residents who are unsure about which agency their issue falls under. This could include complex issues that involve multiple agencies. Other purposes of the MSO could include looking at how to improve service delivery and in the longer term, operational processes, she said.


Municipal Services Office to open Oct 1, says Grace Fu
The new Municipal Services Office (MSO) announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally, will open on Oct 1 and aims to make things easier and reduce anxiety for the public, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu on Sunday

But it will not be an "omnibus organisation", she stressed. "If the public already knows that certain areas are done by certain agencies, they have the expertise, there is no reason why we should create a bureaucracy to pull these services into a central unit."

Speaking to reporters before she flagged off the One Community Walk at Yuhua Constituency, Ms Fu added that the MSO aims to make public service more citizen-centric. She will also spend the next six months studying the entire feedback mechanism loop - including the duration of time it takes to get back to the public - to boost efficiency.

She said: "Whatever we do right now we have to make sure it's most convenient for members of public and that it doesn't create another layer, it doesn't delay the process."


Easier for public to give feedback with new Municipal Services Office

The public will no longer need to first identify the relevant agencies responsible for any municipal issues to give their feedback. That is the aim of Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Grace Fu with the setting up of the Municipal Services Office (MSO).

Ms Fu said this on the sidelines of a community event at her Yuhua constituency on Sunday morning (Aug 24). The Second Minister for Environment and Water Resources will be overseeing the MSO.

At the same time, Ms Fu stressed that current channels of feedback will still be open, a move stakeholders say is important to deal efficiently with more straightforward issues.


Pulling together to pick up sticks

A humble fishball stick made political history in Singapore when it helped prompt the setting up of the new Municipal Services Office (MSO). The removal of the stick, discarded on a walkway in Bukit Gombak, had been delayed for more than a day because parts of the walkway were managed by different agencies. Complaints about the stick caused South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling to call up agencies, upon which she found out the source of the problem The episode contributed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announcing, in his National Day Rally earlier this month, the setting up of the MSO to deal with a lack of inter-agency coordination in municipal matters.

The MSO's immediate task is to work with a diverse range of key government agencies to improve the management of feedback and customer service for municipal services. Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, who heads the unit, has rightly emphasised the need to avoid bureaucratic duplication, which would merely prolong the response process.

Instead, the MSO would facilitate interaction between the public and government agencies, which depends closely upon quick access and good communication. For inter-agency coordination to increase the efficient delivery of municipal services, there should be close interaction among the agencies. The MSO could contribute to that end by encouraging a culture of cooperation and information-sharing.

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Not My Job

This is plain disgraceful demeanor. Barely a week has passed since her great commission, and the minister is already shirking her responsibility and redefining her own job description.

The Prime Minister had made it crystal clear at the nation wide broadcast her million dollar portfolio was a bao-kar-liao assignment - that's dialect for "all encompassing" or "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink". Right off the bat, of course she should expect her phone to be ringing off the hook. If the PM decides to dedicate expensive prime-time television to a fishball stick instead of housing, transportation, health care or immigration issues, it has to be a national priority, right?

Grace Fu begs to differ. By her own definition, the newly launched Municipal Services Office (MSO) is not a "catch-all body, but for complex cases" only, a direct insinuation that a fishball stick does not deserve national attention. Never mind that past attempts to address the "tai-ji" malaise in the system has failed miserably. There was the "Zip-in-Process" (ZIP) initiative in 2000, "No Wrong Door" approach in 2004, "Walls Coming Down" promise in 2006, "First Responder Protocol" improvement in 2012, and the new "Department of Public Cleanliness" set up in 2013. But when a member of the public called the NEA about a serpentine intruder in October 2013, he was asked whether aforementioned snake was slithering in a public park, or in a building, and whither direction it was heading for. If the snake could talk, they would probably quiz it and ask if it preferred to be attended to by NParks, PUB, AVA or the friendly neighborhood police.


The new Municipal Services Office is probably going to be a catch-all complain agency

What the Government intends the MSO to be - In a 25 Aug TODAY report, Minister Fu said that the MSO “is not intended to be an ‘omnibus’ body for the public to direct all their feedback for forwarding to the various government agencies.” She also said, “If the public already knows that a certain area is done by a certain agency … actually there is no reason we should create a bureaucracy to pull these services into a central unit.” The MSO is used for more ‘complex’ cases.

What the public will probably think the MSO is - The issue now is that the public may not know who to call when they face problems. This probably explains why 58 per cent, or 825,967, of the calls received by the police in 2012 were non-emergency in nature.

Additionally, the public may also not know what constitutes a ‘complex’ case which the MSO handles. It is understandable that Minister Fu wants to cut down the red tape and deliver a solution to residents as soon as possible. In fact, she “will spend the next six months focusing on the interaction between the public and government agencies”. The reality is that Singaporeans want the same thing, but may not have the efficacy to help cut down bureaucracy.


GRACE FU: YOU CAN STILL COMPLAIN TO INDIVIDUAL AGENCIES EVEN AFTER MSO IS SET UP
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Grace Fu, explained that the new Municipal Services Office (MSO) that PM Lee announced during the National Day Rally is not meant to be the only feedback channel

She also said that the MSO is not meant to be take over the responsibilities or management functions of the different government agencies or town councils.

For example, she said that if you are already used to calling your local HDB office or police post, you can continue to do that and don't need to change your habit.

She explained that the MSO acts more as an office to redirect your queries to the relevant agency.

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BRIDGING GAP IS PRIORITY FOR MUNICIPAL SERVICES UNIT
But Ms Fu stressed that the MSO would not be an "omnibus organisation". "If the public already knows that certain (things) are done by certain agencies which have the expertise, there is no reason we should create a bureaucracy to pull these services into a central unit."

The MSO will not cause further delays by adding a layer of bureaucracy or require the public to learn a new number to call for help, she added.

It will be housed under the Ministry of National Development (MND), which said in a statement yesterday that the goal is to "improve the Government's overall coordination and delivery of municipal services".

When asked why the MSO has not involved town councils, Ms Fu said that is an area still under consideration. "But we need town councils to cooperate, obviously."


The Municipal Services Office may need oversight by another agency in future

All public land belongs to the government. It is the government which demarcated the land and created many the different agencies to be in charge. This is therefore a self created systemic issue which cannot be resolved by creating another agency.

It’s a typical PAP approach ie setting up councils and committees to tackle chronic issues which are not only unresolved today but have worsened.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone when the MSO eventually fails. The MSO may just require oversight by another agency in future.


Plain disgraceful demeanor

Grace Fu begs to differ. By her own definition, the newly launched Municipal Services Office (MSO) is not a “catch-all body, but for complex cases” only, a direct insinuation that a fish ball stick does not deserve national attention.

Never mind that past attempts to address the “tai-ji” malaise in the system has failed miserably. There was the “Zip-in-Process” (ZIP) initiative in 2000, “No Wrong Door” approach in 2004, “Walls Coming Down” promise in 2006, “First Responder Protocol” improvement in 2012, and the new “Department of Public Cleanliness” set up in 2013. But when a member of the public called the NEA about a serpentine intruder in October 2013, he was asked whether aforementioned snake was slithering in a public park, or in a building, and whither direction it was heading for. If the snake could talk, they would probably quiz it and ask if it preferred to be attended to by NParks, PUB, AVA or the friendly neighbourhood police.

Here’s how Grace Fu envisages her scope of responsibility: “So, if one knows who to call, of course he can just call the number. But if he doesn’t know who to call, I’m hoping to see if I can make it easier for them.” Think of it as a high class call centre girl, with a compensation package to drool for.


National Day Rally 2014: Door still wrong

By sharing the fishball stick story and announcing the new Municipal Services Office in his National Day Rally speech, is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pretty much conceding that the "no wrong door" policy introduced 10 years ago is a failure?

Introducing the new policy on Aug 12, 2004, then Senior Minister of State for Health and Information, Communications and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan said:
"Many a time, when faced with an issue that did not belong to an agency's purview, the agency would simply tell the citizen that he was knocking on the wrong door, and the poor citizen might have to go from door to door until he found the right one. "It can be extremely frustrating. And we want to cut that out."
With the new policy, in cases where the feedback applies to several ministries, the recipient civil servant has to contact all the relevant parties and come up with their concerted response. Unfortunately, judging by these subsequent newspaper reports in 2007 and 2011, the policy didn't quite take.


Staff of new municipal services office should have can-do mindset

The passing on of responsibilities among government agencies is one of the key issues to be solved; it permeates our Civil Service and makes Singaporeans and businesses disgruntled. I believe it got to the point that it became a chronic problem.

A simple example is road safety and grass maintenance in Kranji Countryside. The roads are managed by three different agencies, yet none take responsibility for regular grass-cutting.

Multi-agency task forces have been set up in the past, but even their powers were limited and delayed by bureaucracy. With a single-minded focus on service delivery, I am certain we will see improvements under the new office.


Making Singapore an outstanding country

A Municipal Services Office will be set up to get different public agencies to work more closely together, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

It will help serve residents in a more seamless way, especially when responsibilities are split across public bodies. It is part of making Singapore an "outstanding city" that is planned and run well, he said.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu will oversee the new office, which will be under the Ministry of National Development and coordinate multiple agencies such as the Land Transport Authority, PUB, National Environment Agency and the National Parks Board.


From Fu Khor Lee to Hri

Grace Fu announces revised code on public toilet standards

Speaking today (19 Nov) at the inaugural Singapore WASH conference on sanitation, which was held commemorate the World Toilet Day, Minister Grace Fu announced a new revised Code of Practice on public toilet standards to help in designing better public toilets in new commercial developments next year.

She also launched ‘A Guide to Better Public Toilet Design and Maintenance’, which provides information about good design, maintenance and user education on public toilets.

The new public toilets will have more family and elderly-friendly features. From June 2014, for every 3 cubicles or urinals in the male toilet, new buildings will need to have five cubicles in the ladies’. This is up from the current ratio of 1-to-1

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