BY WALTER SIM, Straits Times

THE minister tasked with heading a new Municipal Services Office (MSO) to be set up on Oct 1 says her priority is to bridge the communication gap between the public and government agencies providing these services.

In her first comments since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his National Day Rally on Aug 17 that she would be heading the MSO, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu told reporters yesterday morning: “We must be more effective in public service delivery, we must also make it easier for the public to get in touch with government agencies. So this will be my guiding principle.

“I will spend the next six months focusing on the interaction between the public and government agencies, starting with the eight agencies that we have listed, because I believe this is what ordinary Singaporeans would face most frequently,” said Ms Fu, who is also Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, and Foreign Affairs.

“It’s also about how we reply to them. So if we receive complaints, how long before we acknowledge and then how long before we close the issue and get back to them,” she added.

The eight agencies Ms Fu referred to are the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, national water agency PUB, National Parks Board, HDB, Land Transport Authority, Singapore Police Force, People’s Association and National Environment Agency.

PM Lee announced the setting up of the MSO 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 the now infamous discarded fishball stick – that was not cleaned due to such a problem.

But Ms Fu stressed that the MSO would not be an “omnibus organisation”. “If the public already knows that certain (things) are done by certain agencies which have the expertise, there is no reason we should create a bureaucracy to pull these services into a central unit.”

The MSO will not cause further delays by adding a layer of bureaucracy or require the public to learn a new number to call for help, she added.

It will be housed under the Ministry of National Development (MND), which said in a statement yesterday that the goal is to “improve the Government’s overall coordination and delivery of municipal services”.

When asked why the MSO has not involved town councils, Ms Fu said that is an area still under consideration. “But we need town councils to cooperate, obviously.”

Details of how the MSO will be run, including how feedback can be gathered from the public, are being ironed out. But members of the public can contact MND on 1800-323-3331 or e-mail [email protected] in the interim.

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