Public as the priority in relocation

By Chu Yann-fang 朱艷芳  / 

Sun, Dec 29, 2013 - Page 8

The plan to relocate the Executive Yuan’s government department offices to the new Sinjhuang (新莊) urban center to improve the quality of service and address regional development imbalance is officially being implemented. The mass relocation affects not only the public servants who work there, but members of the public who need access to the buildings.

However, the only opinions I have heard about this relocation have come from privileged public servants, who are thinking only of themselves.

They complain about how the commute is too long, how bad the public transport is in the new location, how they worry about not being able to get to work on time, how there is nothing to eat near the new offices and how the move will make it difficult for them to pick their kids up from school.

Many are thinking about leaving their jobs or trying to secure a transfer and complain that it will be difficult for them to do their grocery shopping and browse department stores. One minister commented on how intimidating and disruptive the project was going to be.

This raises the question of whether the relocation to the Xinyi District (信義) 30 years prior, or the similar move to the rezoned area in Dazhi (大直), was met with a similar intensity of opposition.

Perhaps public officials should simply move their offices to Taipei 101, or scrap the planned twin towers project near Taipei Main Railway Station and build a designated office district for the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan there instead. It seems that they would be quite happy about those options.

Who knows whether these pampered senior public servants, who are — the clue is in the name — there to serve the public, have given thought to the public, who might have a far worse time, possibly traveling to the old offices, tired, slightly dazed and hoping to have their affairs taken care of, only to find that the offices have moved.

Surely government workers, who are supposed to be providing a public service, should have thought about these unfortunate souls — bewildered and lost in unfamiliar terrain — and announced the relocation long ago while providing information on the quickest and most convenient ways of traveling to the new office location.

The likely scenario, however, is that the offices will be a complete inconvenience to find, and people will spend their entire morning trying to get there, only to arrive just as they are closing for lunch.

Alternately, people will not reach the offices until late afternoon, when the poor, misunderstood public servants, harried by the thought of the long commute home, rush to make sure they are able to leave on time. Doors closed, see you tomorrow morning bright and early, thank you very much. And there people will be, standing at the door completely unaware of what to do.

The official Executive Yuan and Ministry of Culture Web site provides zero information about the relocation, in English or Chinese.

It seems as if the government does not want to be found at all.

Since the nearby Jhongshan Road has been renamed New Taipei Boulevard (Sinbei Dadao 新北大道), chances are that a Google search would also result in zero useful results.

In contrast, the Taipei Rapid Transit Corp’s (TRTC) approach to dealing with recent changes to the organization of its MRT lines, and how it reorganized platforms and train transfers, was very useful.

The company announced the change using advertisements to provide information to the public. Information was posted inside MRT stations and in media outlets six months in advance of the new construction, and the TRTC brought on extra staff to answer questions from confused passengers during MRT operating hours.

The TRTC also allowed passengers to travel free of charge on the new lines for a limited period of time, so that passengers would have time to adjust to the changes.

Despite these efforts, there were still people who complained that there were too many notices and that changes were too complicated and obtrusive.

However, government planners and officials should take note of the TRTC’s approach to informing the public about the change.

Unfortunately, the government is already late in the process of providing relevant information to the public. The stable door is closing, but the horse has already bolted.

The relocation of the offices is imminent. However, it is still critical, at least for the benefit of the staff members who will be working in the new offices and for members of the public who will need to travel to the new location, to make information available.

By using a range of communication outlets and advertisements, providing the public with this crucial information is feasible. This will ensure that the general public is at least aware that the Executive Yuan departments will be changing locations.

The government could even allow members of the public to go and visit the new offices before they officially open. Not only would this give people a chance to anticipate potential transportation and logistical problems with the new location, it would also make it possible for the government departments to identify where improvements can be made.

Do not forget that government services should be contingent upon the needs of the public who use them and should not be solely based on the convenience and needs of the staff who work there and provide public services.

Access to the buildings should not be organized in such a way that the needs of the public are ignored.

As far as adapting to the new system, the initial phase of change is always challenging. This aspect is unavoidable.

However, the extent to which the process will be difficult for the public depends on how efficiently it is handled by the government.

It is important to familiarized people with the upcoming changes as soon as possible so that things can normalize as soon as possible. If the idea is to improve the quality and efficiency of service, the best way to accomplish this is to ensure that everyone is happy.

Chu Yann-fang is an associate professor at the Chungyu Institute of Technology.

Translated by Paul Cooper