Different management models

One of Singapore's three town councils not completely operated by a managing agent is the Jurong-Clementi Town Council.

Starting this month, it has directly hired eight key officers to oversee the management of its housing estates, moving to a new estate management model that it said will allow it to have more direct control of how the town operates.

It is the first town council to operate in such a manner - where town council employees oversee staff from the managing agent.

Political watchers say the results there will no doubt be closely watched by the other 14 People's Action Party town councils.

The new management model by Jurong-Clementi Town Council avoids double-hatting, but still allows the town council to have the benefits of having a managing agent.

This means that the town council gets to reap the benefits, such as operating efficiency and economies of scale, while keeping its eight key staff - one general manager and seven property managers - independent.

 

Town council chairman Ang Wei Neng said: "It's supposed to be the best of both worlds."

Mr Ang said that the town council had been considering running its housing estates in such a fashion for months. A key concern was whether its eight officers would work well with staff from the managing agent.

One of the conditions set was for the town council to have a say in the performance evaluation of staff from the managing agent.

"The (managing agent) will need to get input from our direct staff, in assessing their staff," said Mr Ang.

Associate Professor Lan Luh Luh, deputy chair of the National University of Singapore's Centre for Law and Business, said the model will allow the town council to vet the ties or affiliations of key leaders in charge of its estates - particularly those of the general manager.

"The general manager's affiliations will be clearer to the town council - he is independent and accountable to the council directly," she added.

GOING IT ALONE ALTOGETHER

Another town council has done away with a managing agent altogether, and manages itself.

It said there are plenty of benefits in doing so.

Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council chairman Chong Kee Hiong said: "We believe our response time to new issues that emerge is faster and we can quickly adjust our budget and deploy financial resources accordingly."

The town council, which has managed itself since 1999, has on its payroll a staff of about 70 and functions like a small or medium-sized enterprise, said Mr Chong.

He added that the town has the flexibility to organise resources to meet more specific needs of its estates.

For instance, the town council created a new position on the team that focuses solely on hawker centres.

It has also hired a lift engineer because of the "size and age of estates" within the town council, said Mr Chong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 12, 2017, with the headline 'Different management models'. Print Edition | Subscribe