Sunday, July 15, 2012

That 2200 bicycle

Much has been reported, written, talked about around the table, discussed and dissected by all and sundry about the now notorious case of the Singapore NParks  buying Brompton bicycles for its officers to patrol the network of parks around the island.

NParks has undoubtedly done a good job putting in place, connecting and nurturing the green lungs of Singapore. It is now possible to cycle around the island through this network of parks, away from the busy roads and Singapore drivers' bullying ways towards cyclists. However there might be instances when you need to lug your bicycle over an overhead bridge here and there. Its not perfect, and that's why NParks needed foldable bicycles for its officers, so we are told. That way, they can ride and carry their bikes as the situation demands, and even take the bus with these foldable bicycles. Certain bus types operated by SBSTransit are bicycle and wheelchair friendly. I suppose covering those kilometers of Singapore's parks isn't an easy task. So our officers deserve every tool that will make their job easier and probably more productive.

But Singaporeans are up in arms over the NParks spending S$2,200 on some Brompton bicycles. Some cycling enthusiast have weighed in with their bicycle purchases of a wide variety of models, foldable and otherwise. None that we have heard from have spent more than a S$1,000 on a bicycle. Most that have spent that amount of money bought 2 or more bicycles. For the rest of us, S$200 is about what all that is needed for a good and sturdy bicycle. And if you are a casual cyclist, you can get one for S$80 or less from Carrefour. So when did NParks decide they needed a super premium bike to do their jobs? Its like the police buying Porshe's and Ferraris for their patrol cars. Well, the police have, quite sensibly, so far, bought the more economical Japanese and European models. At least nobody has gone to town accusing the policemen of  luxuriating in super cars during their patrolling duties, chasing down speed demons who ignore traffic lights. They could easily have given this excuse for expensive tastes, just as NParks has done.

It is incredible that NParks insists that Bromptons are the only foldable bicycles out there that fit their purposes. Knowledgeable cyclists will tell you, and I agree wholeheartedly with them, that these bicycles are  easily S$2,000 more than the alternatives that would help the NPark officers do their jobs. And the Bromptons aren't light, if a video of an NParks officer lugging the bicycle up an overhead bridge, which was broadcast on the CNA news, showed.

This episode of extreme waste of tax payers' money has now been conveniently swept under the proverbial carpet by NParks writing a letter that expressed some remorse, that they could have done a better job in the procurement process, promising that they will do a more thorough job the next time. That goes without saying, but the deed is already done. Tax payers like myself, who wouldn't even consider buying a $200 bicycle, just spent $2,200 on one. I am seriously considering asking the IRAS to re-assess my income tax for reliefs that I apparently could not claim in the last tax filing.

Thank you, Mr Khaw, for helping me re-evaluate my tax obligations to the government.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

God in the City

There has been a spate of court cases on corruption June. Don't know if this is because of the sweltering temperature. This was preceded by sex cases in May. I wonder what July will bring. One cannot but be impressed by the work rate of the Attorney General's Chambers. Going by these cases (and more to come?), they can look forward to big performance bonuses at the end of the year, particularly if the cases lead to convictions and fines. I am not suggesting for a moment that the AGC has monetary motives in mind when they haul people to court. I am glad that they are doing what they are paid to do - uphold the law of the land and make the point that Singapore is not a place for any sort of hanky-panky.

First they took sex offenders to court. Then they took civil offenders to court. They also took commercial offenders to court. And the latest, they took God to court. Errmmm, let me correct that. They hauled purported servants of God to court in the dying days of June 2012. The city has been set abuzz, and the blogosphere has gone into overdrive to self-righteously condemn one and all, never mind that the courts have not passed judgement at all in most of the cases. But you can't stop people from talking. Yesterday, I was having dinner in a neighbourhood food court. I overhead 1 women passing comment to her 2 companions about Pastor Kong Hee of City Harvest Church living it up in a house in Sentosa Cove. Yep, only the ultra-rich can afford a house in Sentosa Cove. Yeah, the pastor says that the house doesn't belong to him, nada nada nada. Who would believe a person accused of swimming in S$50 million over the last 2 years if not longer? But then these are only allegations. The court process has only just begun, and it is there that the contest of truths will be waged. While the weather has become cooler with the passing of June into July, don't expect the temperature to fall over these cases.

But some things seem to have died down, or at least become less noisy. Discussion of foreign labour, housing and transportation seem to have taken a back seat. Government overseeing these ministries must be relieved. Even the release of the COI report on the SMRT train breakdowns seem to be a non-event. But I suppose we will hear more of this the coming week when Parliament sits to consider this and other issues.