Defending his Ministry’s policy to impose parking charges for teachers, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said that the decision has to do with “self-discipline”.
Earlier, an AGO report said that free parking for teachers is akin to a hidden subsidy that contravenes the “clean wage policy” set by the public service division. The clean wage policy makes it a point to make sure that salaries are all accounted for and there are no hidden perks.
Making reference to the AGO report, the 4G Minister said that the government has to “respect our internal system of checks and balances” and “cannot pick and choose which finding to address or comply with – we take them all seriously”.
For someone who has some experience working with Government-linked companies, it is surprising that the Minister would not know how to deal with an audit report.
In the corporate world, there are numerous instances where management disagree with the findings of their auditors and would defend their decision in the audit response. The final decision would then be decided by the audit committee.
Should his ministry not have to bring this up to the President or Prime Minister for them to decide on this issue? Shouldn’t there be more comprehensive consultation on this matter, given the backlash it has produced?
A good benchmark that the government could adopt would be to look at what is fair, reasonable and in line with international standards. For example, schools the UK have the right to decide on whether they wish to charge teachers for parking or not.
Otherwise, where does one draw the line? Should teachers be expected to pay for coffee in the pantry because that similarly accounts for hidden perks that is not accounted for in their wages?
Even former NMP Calvin Cheng – who has been known to be supportive of PAP policies – seems to disagree with Minister Ong.
In a Facebook post, Cheng offered the notion that if “parking was already free and there [was] no monetary value to [it]” then this “cannot be counted as a perk and a contravention of the clean-wage policy”.
Others were less convinced and labelled this as weak leadership, with one user commenting on the Minster’s Facebook post that his defence was downright lame.
The user wrote: “AGO is not a political office. Yours is. The difference is factual vs contextual. AGO does not balance pros and cons. Political leaders must. Why take the lead from AGO instead of leading? Lame excuse for wrong decision”.
Just last week, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat did say that the 4G leaders with listen to the people “with humility and respect”. Less than a week later, the Education Minister has proven this wrong with his line of reasoning. Surely – given the sentiments from the people – the minister cannot claimed to have listened?
It is clearly disappointing that he has neither listened to the ground with humility nor acted with the slightest bit of common sense.
The views expressed in this piece do not represent the views of the editorial.