SINGAPORE: The Municipal Services Office (MSO) will be able to tap into a new S$3.6 million fund to help with small-scale infrastructure projects over the next two years, announced Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Tuesday (Mar 6).
The scheme comes on top of other funding options such as the Land Transport Authority’s Walk2Ride scheme, which provides sheltered connectivity to transport nodes and the National Development Ministry's Estate Upgrading Programme.
“Funding gaps for small-scale infrastructure at the local level do exist from time to time,” said Ms Fu, who also oversees the MSO, during the Ministry of National Development’s committee of supply debate.
MSO piloted a small funding scheme in 2014 to plug this gap.
About 140 infrastructure requests were received for the pilot fund and resulted in “small-scale but nevertheless important requests that make a positive difference to residents’ daily living” such as handrails on a footbridge across Geylang River, and lighting along a footpath near Punggol Point LRT station.
The pilot has shown that there is a need for sustained funding for such small-scale local infrastructure. “Residents have also benefited from such infrastructure which improves connectivity, as well as enhances accessibility, safety and security,” it said.
Besides the LIP, MSO has also worked with partner agencies to develop escalation mechanisms so that conflicting demands or constraints among the agencies do not result in undue delays in the planning, development and maintenance of connectivity-related infrastructure, Ms Fu said.
“This will help to bridge the gap, and support our agencies in meeting local infrastructure needs of residents more responsively,” Ms Fu said.
ONE SERVICE AS “ONE-STOP” COMMUNITY PLATFORM
In the coming year, besides providing feedback and accessing information, residents will also be able to use MSO’s OneService (OS) to perform transactions, participate in community events and give their feedback and comments on local improvement programmes, Ms Fu said.
“In the long term, we hope to make the OS channels a one-stop platform to address their municipal needs comprehensively,” she said.
In 2017, the number of registered users grew by 43 per cent to 114,000, and number of cases submitted doubled to 153,000.
When the OS App was introduced in 2015, it had six reporting categories and allowed residents to report municipal issues to government agencies. Now, there are eleven categories, covering not just municipal issues under the purview of government agencies, but also those of town councils (TCs) and even private entities.
For example, the “Facilities in HDB Estates” and “Shared Bicycles” categories introduced last year allow residents to report municipal issues in HDB estates to the TCs, and indiscriminately parked “Shared Bicycles” to bike operators.
This makes it more convenient for residents to report on issues they encounter, and also enable government agencies and TCs collect data more systematically to guide future planning and operations through studying trends and analysing hotspots, Ms Fu said.
Going forward, MSO will also incorporate data collected from relevant elements of the Smart Nation infrastructure such as sensors to further enhance analysis of problem areas and move upstream to better anticipate the needs of residents.
IMPROVEMENT IN RESOLUTION OF CASES
Ms Fu said there has been a marked improvement in the time taken to resolve feedback involving multiple parties.
It now takes 11 working days to resolve 90 per cent of such cases compared to 16 working days at end-2015, Ms Fu said.
This is due to the various initiatives undertaken by MSO to improve coordination, such as appointing lead agencies to settle municipal issues regardless of land ownership.
One such example was how NParks and HDB worked together on to a request for a staircase connecting Clementi Avenue 6 and Ulu Pandan Park Connector.
“It seemed like a simple request but there were complications. The area was earmarked for future public housing development and hence the staircase has to be planned with future developments in mind,” Ms Fu said.
NParks dealt with the presence of high tension cables underground by using light-weight precast slabs to minimise deep excavation works. A ramp was also added at the side of the staircase for cyclists to access the Park Connector.
“GREY AREAS” IN MUNICIPAL ISSUES
While agencies are working together more, there remain municipal issues falling in grey areas where MSO can play a role to help, Ms Fu said.
She said that inter-agency processes which are not apparent to the public have been at play when it comes to cases like pigeon-related nuisances, animal hoarding, and the management of outdoor display areas.
Pigeon-related nuisance cases, for example, involve town councils that oversee the cleaning of common areas, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, which takes enforcement action against pigeon feeders, the National Environment Agency, which takes enforcement action in instances where there is high-rise littering, and Residents’ Committees of the People’s Association, which is often roped in to counsel the feeders.
To support their efforts, MSO has helped to formulate end-to-end workflows to clarify roles and responsibilities, and tighten coordination in their handling of pigeon problems.
MSO is also working towards improving processes at the planning stage. “Good planning and design makes our municipal infrastructure cheaper to upkeep in the long run,” Ms Fu said.
For a start, MSO and NEA are working with infrastructure agencies, in consultation with the town councils to establish design specifications and guidelines that will facilitate cleaning operations. The guidelines on the design of new public infrastructure will make them easier to clean and support mechanisation efforts by cleaning contractors.
Separately, the MSO said it has worked with several government agencies to identify design features and develop design guidelines to facilitate the cleaning and landscape maintenance of public infrastructure.
These guidelines would be incorporated into Building Construction Authority’s Design for Maintainability Checklist. This includes design features that would help prevent the accumulation of litter in public infrastructure, as well as facilitate greater mechanisation in cleaning operations.