Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Minister or Lawyer ?

Shanmugaratnam is acting more like a lawyer intenting to 'win his case', rather than to address the concerns of public over the recent hot button issues as a Minister.

Just observe how defensive he was over Mas Selamat escape, pushing the blame to his kins harbouring him, instead of addressing the shortcoming of his own Home Affairs Ministry and the police force.

Then the cheating case by civil servants due to lapses in supervision, audit and procedural system. He thinks the problem is not wide spread even though several people were involved in the scam, lasting over many years and involving hugh sum of money. The public suspected it is the tip of an iceberg, while he just wanted to sweep it aside.

In summary - he chooses to disclose or hide information as he pleases. Don't expect any accountability, after all the famous line from our govt is 'let's move on'.

Appeal to SPCA

I attended SPCA general meeting last night. I raised some questions and could sense that the Chairperson and Committee were on the defensive side. They were polite and answered the issues raised. However I think SPCA has lapse into a complacency mode, which tends to happen to an established organisation.

Thus, I decided to write an appeal and proposal paper to them and hope they will act on it. The paper is given below :

Appeal And Proposal Paper

1) Set annual goal to reduce the number of animal put down

It is admirable that SPCA has the policy of accepting all animals that come her way. It would be more in line with the organisation name of '..Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' if SPCA sets annual goal to actively work towards the reduction of animals being put down. Euthanasia of healthy animals is still a form of cruelty. Though the public understand the reason for it is due to the organisation constrain, however it does not mean the public accepts it.

The large number of animals handed over / pick up by SPCA constitute the back end of the problem, which SPCA does her best to resolve. But if SPCA does not focus more on the sources of these issues, there is no end in sight as the rate of abandonment out pace the rate of adoption.

Therefore it is suggested that SPCA should give urgency to focus on the sources of the problem which are :

- unfriendly HDB polices towards cats and non pedigree dogs adoption. The animals are disadvantage by these policies and SPCA hands are also tied due to them
- penalty for abuse is too light and law enforcement is weak
- folks treating pets as toys
- urban children lacking contact with animals, may result in unfounded fear which leads to a lack of empathy for them.

With annual goal setting, it would drive SPCA towards planning its education / promotion activities and lobbying for support to achieve the goal of reducing the number of animals put down. It would guide the organisation to rethink its policies.

2) Funds and Expenses – more transparency

a) 2010 Financial Statement
Anyone paying attention to the SPCA 2010 Financial Statement would be alarmed that expenses went up by $166K, while fund raising activities only generated $28K. Then $13.8K was written off, which effectively wipes out 50% of your fund raising effort.

Even private organisation target at cost reduction through reducing operation expenses. Is SPCA doing similar ?

b) Remuneration and HR
SPCA staff should be rewarded for their dedication. If their salary is 10 to 20% above other charity organisations, it is perfectly acceptable. However, if the salary scale of private business organisations is used as reference, this is not acceptable. Business generates profit, while charity organisation is funded by donation.

SPCA has a HR officer, so is there HR policies regarding remuneration, job scope and responsibility ? How does SPCA justify and approve headcount ? For example, the premise and staff strength is not large, is there a need for an office attendant ?

c) Volunteer Pool
SPCA being an established organisation, has a strong volunteer pool. She is popular target for schools community development activities. SPCA could review how she could tap more effectively into the volunteer pool to compliment her work load. This could help reduce operating expenses.

d) Project & Vendor
It is disturbing to learn that SPCA is being cheated by vendor and no legal action is taken. It is not clear why SPCA accepted the vendor proposal in the first place and what action is taken against the vendor. Did SPCA report the matter to the police ? If not, what is there to prevent similar scam from happening again ? Has SPCA tighten or have in place policies for project / vendor review and approval ?

e) Investment
SPCA should aim to be self sustaining with better returns on investment. By doing so, she will have more time to focus on important issues like education and promotion of animal welfare and less time is needed for fund raising activities.

This calls into question how well managed is SPCA $7M which gives a meagre return of $117K, which is able to cover only 5 % of your total expenses of $2M.

Should not SPCA gives more attention how the Ravenscroft Trust fund is managed since she is charged $24K in management fee ?

A breakdown list on what percentage goes into Bond, Shares ..etc together with the detail list of the names of the Bonds, Shares invested in will offer more transparency to how well the Trust fund is managed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Haze will be around as our Minister is not acting

George Yeo is in fact saying ...I am NOT going to do anything about it.

Is this the way our Minister address the its citizen concerns ?

If after so many years, the haze problem still exist - common sense have it that you change strategy to address it.

Funds have been wasted in helping Indonesia with her problem and all the ineffective high level talks year after year - basically, they don't work.

Time to wake up and do something more constructive and stop hoping that being a good neighbour will solve the problem.

The fact is S'pore did NOT try hard enough. There should be NO limit what we can do for the health of our citizens and for the good of the environment.

The problem is our minister is so negative that he sets a limit to what he can do ! No wonder the haze problem is still around.

By all means, have the guts and take up the leadership to band ASEAN countries together to take international action against Indonesian.

I am sure even ordinary Indonesian citizens will be grateful for it as they are suffering more than us. Only the few rich plantation owners will not welcome the move.

Looks like it only takes a few rich powerful people to stop govt from doing what it right and good for its people. Sigh .....

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

The saying, 'Blood is thicker than water' is the reason Mas Selamat's kins helped in his escape. Thus, 'Kin's acts don't reflect on the community' should have been 'Kin's acts is a possible reflection of all communities'

Human nature is the same regardless of race, we know it is wrong yet we still do it. Thus, we have compulsive gamblers, drug addicts.. being help by their families to clear their dept and support their addition. Often the family members themselves need help in order for them to do the right thing from becoming victims themselves.

It is the norm that when we are in trouble we turn to those closest to us - our family for help. Therefore the question is - did not the Home Affairs and the police foresee this after Mas Selamat escape ? I recalled it being reported that 'if he is still in S'pore, he will be caught'. He was in S'pore for many days after his escape, and the troubling thing is, he was in fact hiding in his kin's flat and yet our police officers did not spot him in spite of the extensive island wide search conducted.

Does this not call into question the security system of our country ?

Lesson from the humble strays

In my previous post, I was saying that we can learn a lesson on living in harmony from the stray cats.

There is also a lesson on assertiveness vs aggressiveness which strays displayed.

From my observation, tabby cats are assertive which don't get them into trouble. Tom cats are aggressive, which get them into trouble.

Due to the increasing number of abandon cats around the area, tabby cats have been observed to be territorial. This assertive behaviour is for survival as food is hard to come by.

Tabby cat will emit warning sound and at time charge at another cat coming into her territory, but she does not go into a fight. Whereas a tom cat will fight it out and continue to give chase even when the other cat retreats. Sigh - they end up with serious wounds and battle scars.

It is sad to note that most abandon cats are the old, unsterilized tom cats. These pet owners are heartless and irresponsible as these unsterilized toms will create more problem by increasing the strays population. These folks reflect the ugly side of humanity.

Civil Service Cheating Case

Shanmugaratnam is too quick to dismiss the concern expressed by MPs that there could be systemic problem in civil service procurement procedure. The government recent habit of taking up defensive position whenever hiccups happened is only doing the country a disservice.

If Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has been tasked to draw up the scope of audit for procurement, it only means such guidelines did not exist prior to this cheating incident by Singapore Land Authority (SLA) officers.

How then can Shanmugaratnam claimed that 'appropriate rules and safeguards for public sector procurement' ? Besides it is not a one off crime spree, but it involved large sum of money over many years and more than one officers are charged. If this don't ring a serious alarm bell in the cabinet, we the public are really concern.

Adding layers of bureaucracy is not the solution, this we agree. But the issue is, it common in the civil service to have thick layer of red tape which does nothing in making the system more robust as these procedures are not effective in the first play. The recent cheating incident in SLA is evident in itself.

Therefore the solution is to review the whole procedure system and stop just plugging the hole when it appears. By doing so it will only lead to less efficiency with more procedures pile on top of existing weak policies.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lesson On Harmony

Last Sunday, I brought my 9 years old nephew along with me during my morning round of saying hello to the strays and giving them their 'breakfast'.

Individual cat has its own 'patch' of cat biscuits given to it. There is a family of 3 cats which are happy eating together. The 2 kitties which have reached adulthood still hang around with their mother.

Then there are 2 ginger colour ones, one of which is a growing kitty unrelated to the adult female which eat together. When we approached the 3rd group of 2 male cats, the dominating one refused to let the other male eat, though they were some distant away from each other. He rather forgo his own food and pick a fight with the other cat. Both Tom cats were in bad shape, with wound marks. In the end, both did not touch their food as they were too busy quarreling.

I took this opportunity to talk to my nephew on living in harmony and sharing. Somehow this cat incident brings to mind the recent cases of gang fight in Singapore which resulted in serious injury and fatality.

Cats are like human - some are more tolerant than others.

The dominant cat is sterilised while the other male is not. I wonder if the Tom is really sterlised or someone cut his ear to give the impression he is ? Why is he so aggressive ? Could it be there is a difference in aggressive behaviour if the cat is sterilised before its 1st year and when it is done in its adulthood ? Or perhaps the method of sterilisation, tying the sperm ducts vs removal of the testicles ?