Flat owners or tenants presumed to be offenders behind high-rise littering cases under proposed clause to Bill
In view of the rise in public feedback on high-rise littering, the authorities are seeking to place the onus on owners and tenants of flats to prevent such cases.
SINGAPORE: The registered owner or tenant from a unit proven to be the source of a high-rise littering act will be automatically taken to be the offender under a new clause introduced to the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill.
Under the statutory presumption clause, an owner or tenant will have to prove to the National Environment Agency (NEA) that he or she is not the offender within a stipulated period, or be subject to enforcement action.
Apart from the statutory presumption clause, other proposed amendments include revisions to the cleaning business licensing framework, a new mandate for building owners to maintain the Pneumatic Waste Conveyance Systems (PWCs), a progressive wage model for waste collection and materials recovery sub-sectors, and to make it an offence to cause or permit dumping or disposal of waste in public places.
The proposed amendments seek to uplift the waste management and cleaning sectors in Singapore, and ensure a cleaner living environment, the NEA said.
The amendments to the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill was tabled in Parliament by Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor on Monday (Jan 9) for its first reading.
FLAT OWNERS OR TENANTS WILL BE PRESUMED OFFENDERS
The statutory presumption clause for littering from residential flats aims to place greater onus on registered owners and tenants of flats to prevent littering, given the rise in public feedback on such cases.
According to the NEA, public feedback on littering from flats has increased by around 77 per cent, from an average of 16,800 instances annually from 2016 to 2018, to an average of 29,700 instances annually from 2019 to 2021. NEA has taken an average of around 1,500 enforcement actions each year from 2017 to 2021.
"Firmer action needs to be taken to deter littering from residential flats," said the NEA.
"Success in curbing high-rise littering has been incremental, despite the increase in camera deployment in recent years. Littering from residential flats may continue to rise with more flats, which are taller and denser, being built across the island. Greater deterrence is achieved by placing greater onus on flat owners and tenants," the authority added.
Currently under the Environmental Public Health Act 1987 (EPHA), littering from residential flats is already an offence. However, flat owners are only required to provide information on the identity of every occupier of the flat at the time of the offence.
Under the proposed statutory presumption clause, after it is proven that a littering act was committed from a particular residential flat, the registered owner or tenant of that flat will be presumed to be the offender. If there are multiple owners or tenants, each will bear responsibility equally.
The registered owner or tenant can rebut this presumption within 14 days of being notified by the NEA that an offence has been committed.
They can do so by proving that they were not present in the flat at the time of the offence, by proving that they could not have been the offender, or by providing the identity of a person reasonably believed to be the offender. NEA will conduct investigations while taking into account evidence provided, such as camera recordings.
If no rebuttal is given within the timeframe, NEA will proceed to issue a summons to the presumed offender.
If the presumed offender misses NEA's letter of intended prosecution for valid reasons, he or she may provide evidence - such as air tickets if they had been overseas - and NEA will assess their cases accordingly.
For homeowners or tenants who are elderly, or mentally or physically disabled, NEA said the offender, or his or her family member or relative, may write to NEA and provide relevant documents. NEA will review the circumstances of each case before taking any action, which may include issuing a warning.
No enforcement action will be taken against children under 12 years old. Instead an advisory will be given to their parents to educate them on how to dispose litter correctly. Adults who seek to take advantage of this by pushing the blame to their children may be further prosecuted if they are found to have lied to the authorities.
The proposed implementation date for the clause is Jul 1 this year. Under the EPHA, a person convicted of a littering offence for the first time may be fined up to S$2,000.
Upon a second conviction, an offender may be fined up to S$4,000. Upon a third or subsequent conviction, an offender may be fined up to S$10,000. Offenders may also be given a Corrective Work Order requiring them to clean public areas for up to 12 hours.
GENERAL CLEANING BUSINESS LICENSING ENHANCED
The proposed new framework for cleaning business licensing will merge the current cleaning business licensing and the voluntary Enhanced Clean Mark Accreditation Scheme.
Under the revised cleaning business licensing framework, there will be three classes of licence with a two-year validity. Of these, two classes will have a new requirement for paid-up capital.
The Class 3 licence will be a non-renewable tier available to new or existing businesses as a one-off. Existing businesses can use this license as a transition and will have until 2026 to change to a Class 2 or 1 licence.
The Class 2 licence will require businesses to have a paid-up capital of S$25,000, while a Class 1 licence will need businesses to have a paid-up capital of S$250,000 and a clean record with no conviction history in the past 24 months.
Convictions include offences such as the submission of false documents during the business licence application, not paying employees' Central Provident Fund, or breaches of workplace safety and health regulations.
Both the Class 1 and 2 licence will also be required to have bizSAFE certification.
"Class 1 licensees can signal their commitment to invest in training of the workforce to attain more cleaning competencies, and to provide more assurance to service buyers that they are equipped with further resources to undertake larger cleaning projects," NEA said.
The paid-up capital requirement is also to support better wages within the cleaning industry and greater technology adoption, according to NEA.
NEA figures as of Nov 30 last year show that there are around 1,550 licensed cleaning businesses and 55,000 cleaners, of which 41,200 are resident cleaners.
The proposed revised cleaning business licensing framework will take effect on Jan 1, 2024, giving the industry time to transition to the new requirements.
All cleaning businesses that do not qualify for Class 1 or 2 licence by the effective date will be placed on a Class 3 licence when their licence expires, and they will have two years to meet the requirements for a Class 1 or 2 licence.
Based on NEA's data, all cleaning business licensees will qualify for a Class 3 licence, while one-third of the businesses qualify for at least a Class 1 or 2 licence.
AMENDMENT TO ALLOW NEA TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST SUPERVISORS
Under the proposed amendments, NEA will be able to take enforcement actions against supervisors who improperly instruct workers to throw waste in public places.
Currently, only the dumping or disposal of waste is prohibited, which means that NEA can only take enforcement action against the person committing the act, which may be the worker himself.
The Bill will make it an offence to cause or permit the dumping or disposal of waste in a public place.
The Bill will also extend the timeframe for investigations from one to three years, providing a longer timeline for complex cases. NEA will be able to take enforcement action against offenders who commit any offence within three years from the date of the offence, instead of one year.
Littering and high-rise littering cases will still be investigated and offenders prosecuted promptly. The new time bar also excludes cases involving injury or danger to health.
If passed, the proposed amendment is expected apply to offences committed from Jul 1 this year.
BUILDING OWNERS' RESPONSIBILITY TO MAINTAIN PNEUMATIC WASTE CONVEYANCE SYSTEM
The Bill will seek to mandate building owners to maintain PWCs, which are automated waste collection systems that transport rubbish from a refuse chamber to a centralised bin through underground pipes using air.
The NEA said: "With an increase in the number of PWCS implemented in strata-titled developments in Singapore, there is a need to place responsibility on building owners to maintain their PWCS, so as to ensure that the equipment can be operated effectively to create a cleaner living environment."
The Bill will empower NEA to take enforcement action against building owners who do not discharge their responsibilities to maintain, repair, and replace their PWCS.
The proposed amendment will take effect from Jul 1 this year if passed.
Progressive wage model for waste collection and material recovery sub-sectors
The Bill will revise the licensing framework for waste collection and waste disposal licensees where licensees will need to adhere to prescribed conditions, including paying workers a baseline wage, overtime wages and an annual bonus in accordance with the Tripartite Cluster for Waste Management's recommended wage schedule.
Last year, the Government accepted the Tripartite Cluster for Waste Management's recommendations to introduce the progressive wage model for resident workers in the waste collection and materials recovery sub-sectors from Jul 1 this year. The wage schedule is expected to stretch to June 30, 2029.
Around 3,000 resident workers are expected to benefit from the recommendations.