At a press conference, the national water agency's third in as many days, PUB's chief executive Mr Khoo Teng Chye admitted on Friday that they were "caught off-guard". PUB staff had kept a close watch on Bukit Timah, not realising that Stamford Canal could be in trouble. Like the 3G iPhone, their OS is obviously not multi-tasking.
But Mr Khoo stopped short of issuing an apology on behalf of PUB: "We are responsible for the drainage system so it's our job to make sure that the drainage system functions well. When there are problems like these, I think we have the responsibility to make sure that we try and manage it, learn from it and take the necessary steps to prevent a recurrence." In other words, expect more problems, but they'll just move on and continue to draw obscene fat-cat salaries. Accountability was never in the job description.
More than $2 billion has been poured into improving drainage infrastructure over the past 3 decades, including the extravagant $226 million Marina Barrage undertaking and associated "lifestyle attraction" infrastructure. PUB already has the budget to spend $150 million annually over the next 5 years on drainage improvement works. The agency's maintenance expenditure has also been doubled to $23 million. Money gushes in like flood water.
"Of course, what they did not realise was that the Stamford Canal was also having some problems, because we were, frankly, a little bit caught off-guard by what happened at Stamford Canal. But, of course, now that becomes a new hot spot," Mr Khoo said. Of course, they'll always come up another the spot. You expect them to lose their jobs? Like fellow scholar Khoo Chin Hean (no relation), ex-Chief Executive of Energy Market Authority, who pegged electricity tariff to wild oil price fluctuations?
PUB's claim that the Stamford Canal was last checked only in March was always suspect. Pressed again on when the canal was last cleaned of debris, Mr Khoo avoided a direct answer by detracting with how drainage systems are meant to be "self-cleansing" and covered drains are less likely to collect litter. Now the drains get blamed for not doing their share of "self-cleansing" duties. Mr Khoo also said one of the difficulties of managing the drain systems is the unpredictable tropical weather. See, even the weather gets blamed. Everybody but PUB bureaucrats.