Friday, June 12, 2009

The residents could assess the town councils but they must keep in mind of resource and finance constraint


Susan held the door wide open as Mr Teo together with Ah Tan and Ah Lim walked in. In the room, representative from each town council rose to each feet. Susan handed the wireless microphone over to Mr Teo as he walked to the front.

MR TEO (clearing his throat): Gentlemen, please be seated.

Discreetly and taking care not to make too much noise, the representatives sat down slowly. Ah Tan and Ah Lim took their seats at the front row.

MR TEO: I've called all of you here today to brief you on the idea of the Town Council Management Report.

The representatives stared at Mr Teo dauntingly, almost holding their breath.

MR TEO: This is a suggestion from the National Development Ministry and the aim of the report is to provide the residents a chance to compare their estates in areas like cleanliness of the estate, maintenance, and how funds are managed.

Soft disconcerting mumblings started among the representatives. One of the representatives held his hand up.

MR TEO: Yes?
REPRESENTIVE A (with his face winced): But Sir, those disgrateful residents are constantly disparaging us, always complaining about the slightest issue and unbelievably suspicious of how we are managing the funds! This report will turn them even more arrogant, and if you allow them to compare among the different estates, they will covet for more!
MR TEO: Yes, your worries are already anticipated. That's why the main aim of the report is for the residents to better understand the challenges and trade-offs involved in managing their town. To make them understand that there is a certain constraint as to how much resource or finance can be put in to manage the town, and that there must be a balance in expectations, the maintenance standards and the performance of town councils.

Representative A nodded and smiled with relief.

MR TEO: For every service we provide to residents, it's based on how much service charge we collect. So if the town council has only got peanuts, the residents cannot simply expect it to provide them elephants right? Hahaha...

The representatives tried to laugh politely at Mr Teo's peculiar metaphor.

MR TEO: Just like how you are using investments to manage the funds, town councils have to be managed like a corporation with profit and loss in mind. This is the most pragmatic and efficient way to run town councils.

All representatives nodded in agreement simultaneously.

MR TEO: This report would help identify areas where town councils are not doing well and where residents can give more constructive feedback.

Representative B held his hand up.

REPRESENTATIVE B (flustered): Sir, I understand that we are trying to give the residents more say in local estate matters and to foster a stronger community spirit. But consider that if you so much as to open a channel to these insolent people, our offices will be deluged with nonsensical complaints!
MR TEO: That's why I said "constructive feedback"! For every single complaint, they must provide a constructive feedback! This will ensure that, A, if for every complaint they make, they have to think of the solution first, they will think twice before they write in. B, every complaint will come with its own solution and all you have to do is to review and say "Yes" or "No"!
REPRESENTATIVE B (perplexed): "Yes" or "No"?
MR TEO: If the solution works, say "Yes, thank you, it is a good suggestion and we will put it in our POR". If the solution sucks, say "No, we're afraid it might not work, and thank you for feedback"! And if some time later the residents were to ask you why are their suggestions not implemented yet, tell them you have resource or finance constraints! Didn't I say this at the beginning of the meeting?

Representative B nodded satisfactorily. At the other side of the room, representative C held his hand up.

REPRESENTATIVE C: Sir, previously you said that for every service we provide to residents, it's based on how much service charge we collect. Does that mean if the residents require more services, we could provide these services and charge them?
MR TEO (grinning): Good! This is a very good question! And this shows that you've been listening to me! Like I said, you have to run your town councils like corporations. So if the customers are asking for more services outside of what you're providing, what do you do? Make them pay! If they think that the estate is not clean enough and getting a better cleaning vendor means paying more, tell them they need to pay more on top of that little Service & Conservancy Charges! But be careful though. If the residents are asking for the sky, like upgrading their mere twenty years old lifts, tell them it could not be done. You should know that you can only kick-start these kind of large projects with your mayor's blessing, when these upgrades are used as carrots during elections.

The representives scribbled down all the tips as Mr Teo continued to suggest more services which the residents must pay to get them.

AH LIM (whispering to Ah Tan): This report thingy seems like a wayang to please the residents and make them believe that the town councils are not aloof from them.
AH TAN (whispering back): Yah, after all those funds lost in the Lehmen Brothers investments and the seven months bonuses rumor, this report is a good suggestion.


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