Workers’ Party (WP) parliamentarian Gerald Giam has said that he was puzzled by the answers Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) Masagos Zulkifli provided, as to why a government e-service is not open 24 hours a day.
The COVID-19 Support Grant (CSG), which was launched in May this year, provides financial assistance and job support to Singaporean & Permanent Resident (PR) workers who have lost their jobs, been involuntarily placed on No-Pay Leave (NPL), or experienced significant pay loss due to the economic impact of COVID-19.
In the past six months, MSF received 180,000 CSG applications. While 96 per cent of applications were submitted online, the online portal is only open from 9am to 6pm daily.
Mr Giam had asked Mr Masagos in Parliament why online applications for the Covid-19 Support Grant (CSG) only be submitted between this nine-hour period each day and whether MSF will consider allowing online applications 24 hours a day, save for periodic maintenance windows.
Mr Masagos replied that the ministry assessed that the current operating hours “has been adequate to meet the needs of most applicants” and that Singaporeans have “sufficient time and opportunity to apply for assistance.”
The ruling party politician added that MSF had initially considered the possibility of longer operating hours each day but decided against it so that there could be more time for maintenance works each day. He said:
“Prior to launch, we had considered the possibility of longer operating hours each day, but we eventually decided on daily operating hours of 9am to 6pm, taking into account the need to allow sufficient time each day to closely monitor system performance, perform system maintenance and updates, and troubleshoot problems in a timely fashion to minimise any unplanned downtime and to ensure that applicants would receive a sustainable and reliable level of service. We will continue to monitor the availability and level of service of the online portal, taking into account user feedback.”
Dissatisfied with the Minister’s response, Mr Giam pointed out that many other public facing IT systems operate 24 hours a day. He added that limiting the e-service’s operating hours curtails an MP’s ability to immediately help those who need help navigating the system during Meet-the-People sessions, which take place after the portal is closed.
Reiterating his concerns in a Facebook post published on Monday (7 Dec), Mr Giam said: “I find this rather puzzling, since most other public-facing IT systems operate for much longer hours, and many are 24/7.
“Limiting the CSG portal’s operating hours means that we cannot assist residents, many of whom are not IT-savvy, with their applications during meet-the-people sessions, as these take place after 7.30pm.”
Revealing that volunteers work around this issue by arranging to meet up with those who need assistance at a separate time, the Aljunied GRC MP added: “There could also be many other residents who have to work during the day and are only available to submit their applications after office hours.”
Mr Giam expressed hope that the Government will take the different needs of citizens into consideration when planning the availability of government e-services.