Gov Innovation: Of fees, fines and flotsam
Singapore’s public agencies walked away with four top awards in the recent GovInsider Innovation Awards 2016.
Two awards were given to the teams behind the Business Grants Portal and the Work Pass Integrated System for Foreign Domestic Workers.
In this story, we shine the spotlight on winning projects from the State Courts and the National Environment Agency (NEA).
Best Risk Award
Singapore’s State Courts received the Best Risk Award for its Seamless Payment System.
The Award recognises ‘projects that took a risk’ — be it a policy risk, trying a new approach, or the delivery of a service in a way that bucks the trend in the agency or organisation.
The State Courts’ Seamless Payment System certainly fits the bill, as it transformed the payment collection process from a counter-based paper system into a multi-platform, self-service automated payment process.
The State Courts process S$70 million worth of payments each year covering bail payments, court fees and court fines each year — and court users make these payments using different modes such as cash, cheques, cashiers’ orders, credit cards, debit cards and NETS.
Substantial resources are required to manage the various payment collection processes.
As the State Courts embarked on new initiatives, it became necessary to take calibrated risks to transform the way payments by court users were collected.
The aim was to develop a comprehensive and seamless solution that will not just optimise resources, but also provide a better experience for court users.
The complex project to automate the payment process was carried out in phases, and the project team mitigated the risks through careful implementation and by working closely with stakeholders.
The team started by integrating the Case Management System with the Finance Management System (FMS). This allowed the payment-related information to be transmitted electronically, from the courts or registry counters to the finance counters, facilitating real-time retrieval of payment information.
Next, the team proceeded to integrate the FMS with the AXS network.
This integration allowed court users to make fine instalment payments island-wide at any AXS kiosk, or on internet and mobile platforms at their convenience, thus eliminating the need to make multiple trips to make payments at State Courts’ Finance Counters.
The initiative was appreciated by courts users as it brought about greater convenience and reduced over-the-counter collection of fine instalments.
In the final phase, the team developed the Automated Collection System (ACS) to make court payments mobile by allowing court users to make real-time payments through automated kiosks that are located at several locations within the State Courts Building.
The self-service automated kiosks have been developed to accept multiple modes of payment — including cashiers’ orders and impressed stamps.
A new 3-piece integrated device (consisting of the card inserter, keypad and Flash Pay touchpad) was developed to allow all card payments on one device which eliminated the need for users to handle two separate bulky devices for NETS and credit/debit Cards.
The three kiosks that have been deployed for use have been well-received.
Frequent user, Mr Sum Peng Kong, 76, a law clerk who makes regular payments at the ACS kiosk, said that he found the kiosk convenient and easy to use.
The development of the ACS brought the State Courts closer to its final goal of ending counter-based payment collection services, and having an automated self-service mobile payment system that is user-friendly and accessible at all times.
Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon, Presiding Judge of the State Courts said : “The State Courts introduced the Automated Collection System to streamline our court bail, fines, and fees collection processes, and to bring about a new way of interfacing with court users, as part of our commitment to provide excellent court services to the public.”
There are plans to deploy the automated kiosks at more locations, and we might expect to see more around the island — the State Courts have been hosting learning visits for Ministries, other agencies and even hospitals which have expressed interest in the ACS.
The Best Use of Data Award
This award looks for a project that has used data across multiple agencies or sources to find new conclusions, efficiency savings, or delivery models. The winning agency must demonstrate how it discovered a conclusion by looking through data that had not been recognised before.
The National Environment Agency of Singapore (NEA)’s efforts to tap on the flow of big data landed this prize.
NEA is the public organisation responsible for improving and sustaining a clean and green environment in Singapore.
Mr S Satish Appoo, NEA’s Group Director (Joint Operations &Technology) said, “The National Environment Agency is delighted to have won the GovInsider Innovation award under the ‘Best Use of Data’ category. NEA leverages on technology to improve its decision-making capabilities to provide timely and reliable information to its stakeholders.”
Each day, NEA collects a large amount of data flowing through through various channels: its wide sensor network, inspection regime, incidents reporting, public feedback and stakeholders’ engagement.
The rainfall data was captured by NEA’s Integrated Environment System (IES), a real-time environmental monitoring and operational system designed to fully integrate various types of environmental sensing systems, covering air, land, water and video.
The project team’s strategic use of the rainfall and public feedback datasets allowed NEA to dispel the perception that higher rainfall would automatically lead to more feedback — read: public complaints — about rubbish accumulating in the waterways.
In fact, analysis of the data from Moulmein and Geylang Serai constituencies indicated that heavy rain might be good for the collection of rubbish, as a heavy volume of rainwater at high velocities can clean out the trash from the canals and wash them into the booms placed at strategic points along the waterways – making it easier to collect the flotsam.
And naturally, better collection of rubbish from the waterways actually reduced public complaints.
This use of data analytics has also helped the agency to plan the best times to deploy cleaners to remove rubbish from the waterways, leading to better citizen satisfaction.
Said Mr Appoo, “NEA sees good potential in making better use of the data collected to inform policy making, optimise operational efficiency and enhance public engagement. As an agency, we continually strive to make better use of collected data to optimise operational efficiency and strengthen our data-driven decision making capabilities.”