Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Letter to The Straits Times: GOVT COMMUNICATION: Top priority: Respond promptly

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter was published on Saturday 12th October 2013.

The Public Service Division’s initiative to get government agencies to communicate simply with sincerity and empathy will most certainly improve the image of the public service (“Govt agencies’ new goal – write simply, with sincerity”; Wednesday).

Poor written or verbal communication or none at all leads to a lot of misunderstandings and unhappiness.

Very often, people who call up government agencies are pushed from one department to another.  There is a “no wrong door policy” in place, but not many civil servants practise it.

At other times, the phone rings but no one picks it up, or a voice message says: “Your call is important to us. Please leave your number and we will get back to you as soon as possible.” And one is kept waiting because often, the call is not returned.

Even with the promptness of e-mail, many public sector officers, including office bearers, don’t bother to respond.

But if a complimentary letter is sent, a reply will come almost immediately.

The most important thing is to respond quickly to members of the public who make the effort to write to government agencies, especially if there are lapses in service standards.

A simple acknowledgement or phone call informing the writer that his letter has been received and is being given attention will ease his anxiety and frustration.  But few public servants do this.

And in replying to letters from the public, it is important to indicate the replying officer’s name and direct contact number, to facilitate easier communication.

Computer-generated letters, which give the impression that the department “does not want to be disturbed”, should also be done away with.


Raymond Anthony Fernando


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