Singapore Budget 2015: Municipal Services Office to partner more closely with govt agencies and town councils

SINGAPORE - The coordinating office for municipal issues will link up with three more government agencies, as well as two town councils, to improve how it manages problems on the ground.

From April 1, the Municipal Services Office (MSO) will work with the Building Construction Authority (BCA), Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), to handle issues associated with construction activities and illegal parking.

"This addition will expand MSO's scope of work and allow us to look for greater improvements," said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, who heads the MSO, in Parliament on Tuesday.

PM Lee Hsien Loong announced the setting up of the MSO last August to deal with a lack of inter-agency coordination in municipal matters. He cited the example of a walkway in Bukit Gombak - the site of a now infamous discarded fishball stick - that was not cleaned due to a lack of clarity on which agency was responsible.

Said Ms Fu of the "shift from an agency-based approach to an issues-based one": "It's not an easy move. It means breaking down silos amongst agencies, working closely with one another, and arriving at a consensus on how to deal with feedback."

The office currently works with eight agencies, like the Housing Board (HDB) and the police. Collectively, they handle around 42,000 municipal cases every month.

She noted that government agencies are not the only bodies which handle municipal services.

The MSO's challenges involve getting agencies and town councils to acknowledge ownership of the cases referred to them, provide progress updates, and follow MSO-issued guidelines on how to resolve cases that involve multiple entities.

Responding to MPs' suggestions for the office to coordinate with town councils - which maintain and clean common areas in public housing estates - Ms Fu said that the MSO has just started trials with Jurong and Holland-Bukit Panjang town councils.

"If successful, we will invite all town councils to participate in the working arrangements with MSO, without weakening (their) autonomy and authority in service delivery and in setting their service standards," she said.

Ms Fu also announced that The National Parks Board (NParks) will become the central agency for public greenery maintenance from June.

Currently, different agencies handle greenery-related issues depending on who owns the land. As such, they end up engaging different contractors to maintain the greenery, even for those in the same vicinity.

"This is not ideal. We can do better," said Ms Fu. As such, NParks will take over grass-cutting works from the SLA, national water agency PUB, and the Housing Board.