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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).

SINGAPORE: 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. 

The MSO will be housed in the National Development Ministry headquarters when it is set up on Oct 1, but it will not be operational until a later date. Ms Fu said the first order of business is to look at how to improve communication and customer feedback between the public service and members of the public, and this also includes re-looking the efficiency and timeliness of acknowledging and replying to this feedback.

In the longer term, Ms Fu said the MSO will take the feedback to identify operational gaps. "If you find that a certain area always gets feedback from the public about not being clean enough, or trees not being cleared, then I think we will focus (on this), we will have good data. This is how the public can give us good feedback.”

For a start, the MSO will work with eight agencies - the People's Association, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, the Housing and Development Board, the Land Transport Authority, the National Environment Agency, NParks, PUB and the Singapore Police Force. Over time, more agencies could also come on board.

Ms Fu said the various town councils also manage a significant number of municipal issues, and the MSO will look into linking up and communicating with them better. "If residents see a fallen tree on town council land, we really don't want residents to go and hunt down whose land is it. We also need town councils to cooperate."

MND estimates about 15 per cent of the current feedback received could fall under the category of members of the public sending feedback on municipal issues to the wrong agency or a situation where an issue involves multiple agencies.

Tammy Chua, a member of the public, said: "I saw a monkey in my neighbourhood, so I called NEA, they said 'no, I have to call the police'. When I called the police, they said, 'oh no, that is not their job, I have to call another agency'. In the end, the monkey ran off. Actually the problem is very simple, we just want to get rid of - in my case - that monkey."

Ms Fu said this is where the MSO adds value - to reduce the public's anxiety when they do not know who to call to report a problem. But the public will still be able to contact the various agencies directly. She said: "It has to be what makes sense for the public. If the public already knows that certain areas are done by certain agencies, and they have the expertise, there is no reason why we should create a bureaucracy by pulling these services into a central unit. I envisage some form of 'one-stop', but it's not the only one. So if you're already used to calling your local HDB office or your local police post, we really don't want you to re-learn another number." 

Deputy Chair in the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, Liang Eng Hwa, said it is important to have the various channels for more efficient delivery, and leave the MSO to resolve the more complex problems. This, he said, would be more efficient and not create new bureaucracy issues. The MSO's role should evolve, he said.

For example, if a town council wants to build a covered linkway, it needs to get in touch with various agencies like the LTA, HDB and even PUB. "That's why some projects are delayed because of that kind of issues you have to deal with. So if (the) MSO can come in to solve, bring this together and have the teeth to make some decisions, that will really be helpful with the issues we face on the ground," he said.

The MSO will set up a feedback channel for the public, and is working on a mobile app for this purpose. It will also have a database to collate the feedback and analyse it to look into the key areas for improvement. 

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