Taipei City Government’s “Mayor’s Mailbox” and 24-hour 1999 Citizen Hotline have recently been inundated, not by residents expressing concern over municipal affairs, but by lazy students and high--ranking public servants asking for help with their “homework.”
With final exams looming, junior-high students across the country are busier than usual and some have sought help with their increased workload by “sending” homework to the mayor’s mailbox or dialing 1999 — the two main channels to address “the complaints and problems” of Taipei residents.
The Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC) under the Executive Yuan has mandated that all complaints “be properly dealt with” within seven days of receipt, as part of its effort to improve administrative efficiency and promote better communication with the public.
The commission has also stipulated that if the petitioner finds the initial response “unsatisfactory,” the department concerned must revise and re-submit a more thorough answer.
If the petitioner is still unhappy with the response, the head of the department is required to telephone him or her in person and discuss the matter.
Recently, a growing number of college students and postgraduates have concluded that this --“citizen-friendly policy” is a good way to get help with their schoolwork, city government staff said.
Some students have even asked public officials to help solve problems or organize information relating to school assignments, they added.
One university postgraduate student asked several city departments — including the departments of labor, health, fire and environmental protection — to provide a number of answers to a mid-term report he was assigned to submit, a city official said, adding that the student even highlighted the fact that he needed a response no later than the “deadline of his assignment.”
Meanwhile, senior public servants have also been “exploiting” public resources for personal use.
Officials with the city’s Department of Transportation said they recently received a letter through the mayor’s mailbox from someone who claimed to be a “high-ranking public servant who is currently undertaking a promotion training program at the National Civil Service Institute.”
In the letter, the “senior official” asked the department to provide information on “Taipei City’s future plans for city buses” and its “progress in installing pedestrian traffic lights,” the department said.
As some of these “inquires” touch on the administrative duties of multiple departments, staff have complained that they are being forced to spend hours organizing information to be able to provide adequate answers.
Such a process is not only time-consuming, but is also an obstacle to the city government’s efforts to deal properly with daily public affairs, they said.
An official with the transportation department said that students asking the city government for help with their assignments was an everyday occurrence.
“However, it is unbelievable that a public servant with decades of seniority would look for answers to a report [at the training program] through the mayor’s mailbox, when the official receiving his questions might not be senior enough to receive that level of training,” said the official, who declined to be named.
A labor department official who has already passed his promotion training said that group discussion accounted for as much as 45 percent of the final grade in the program.