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Singapore – Processes should be streamlined and not more layers of supervision added in public service, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Friday (Feb 26) in response to the erroneous clearing of a large patch of woodland in Kranji.

On Jan 13, state-owned industrial property developer JTC Corporation discovered that its contractor had cleared a forested area at Kranji erroneously.

The news sparked a backlash among the public, with many calling for action to against those responsible.

JTC’s contractor, Huationg Global Limited, had since been issued a stop-work order and is assisting in investigations into the incident. The National Parks Board (NParks) also confirmed it was investigating the unauthorised clearance.

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According to the Parks and Trees Act, it is illegal to fell a tree with a girth exceeding one metre growing on any vacant land, whether within or outside a tree conservation area, without NParks’ approval.

The former deputy CEO of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), Yao Chee Liew, said JTC should bear much of the responsibility for the mistake.

Mr Yao noted that there should not be a shifting of the responsibility to the contractor as it was JTC’s task to hire professionals to stay on-site while the project is in progress to ensure standards are met along the way.

According to a todayonline.com report, JTC is investigating the incident, while  NParks is looking into possible statutory breaches and a cross-agency review under way led by Permanent Secretary of Defence Development Mr Joseph Leong.

In response to questions on the incident from several Members of Parliament on Friday, Mr Chan used his military experience to note that when accidents happen in the army, the common conclusion was usually that more supervision was needed.

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“Now I have grown up learning that that may not necessarily be the best solution,” said Mr Chan. “Because when more parties get involved, ultimately, who is responsible? If a soldier did not do his job well, we ask whether there were factors that affected his concentration, whether his training was adequate or whether there were other complicating factors.”

“At the end of the day, we want a streamlined process whereby there are clear lines of responsibilities for each of the parties involved in any complex project,” added Mr Chan.

It is the role of Mr Leong, who is also the Second Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications and Information, to strengthen the processes in public service.

“We should be careful that in trying to improve the processes and streamline them, we do not unnecessarily add on (more) that might either diffuse the responsibility or make project coordination even more difficult going forward,” said Mr Chan.

Meanwhile, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee highlighted that his ministry is working on more safeguards to improve the environmental impact assessment (EIA) framework in Singapore, which would be done in a “science-based manner.”/TISG

Read related: JTC issues stop-work order on contractor that ‘erroneously’ cleared Kranji woodlands

JTC issues stop-work order on contractor that ‘erroneously’ cleared Kranji woodlands

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