In July 1951, L. C. Hill, a British expert on public administration, arrived in Singapore at the invitation of the British colonial government to study and report on the local government structure of the island. Hill submitted his report on local government reforms before he left Singapore in January 1952. While recommending that water remains under the administration of the City Council, Hill proposed that separate corporations or boards be formed to manage the public utilities of electricity and gas as these entities would enjoy greater autonomy when carrying out their functions.
While Singapore mulled over Hill’s recommendations, a 10-man Committee on Local Government was convened by the Singapore government in 1955 to look into matters of the local government, focusing particularly on the decentralisation of the powers of the City Council and the Rural Board. In its report submitted on 30 January 1956, the committee recommended the transfer of public utilities – water, electricity and light – from the City Council to a statutory public corporation. Many city councillors were, however, not convinced of this controversial proposal and the debate on whether public utilities should be controlled by a reconstituted City Council or a public statutory board continued.
In April 1958, the government announced that it would set up the Public Utilities Board (PUB) regardless of whether the City Council was agreeable to the idea. In 1959, the Ministry for National Development took over the duties and powers of the City Council after the new Singapore government led by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was sworn in on 5 June. By 1 September 1959, the offices of the utilities departments had moved to locations near each other for operational convenience and in preparation for the future integration into the PUB., a process aided by experts from the Canadian government.
The Public Utilities Bill was read for the first time in the Legislative Assembly on 27 June 1962  before it was handed to the Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly for review. The committee was given two weeks to collect public views on the proposed legislation, but did not recommend any changes to the Public Utilities Bill in its final report. The bill was then read a second and third time on 5 April 1963 under a Certificate of Urgency  before coming into force on 1 May 1963. Fong Kim Heng was appointed as the first chairman of the PUB and he was subsequently replaced by George Oehlers on 1 November 1963.
1. Expert to investigate. (1951, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 4; Kennard, A. (1956, February 7). Four district councils in scheme which marches with the master plan. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. He suggests gas, power boards. (1952, February 13). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. ‘Let us hear Mr. S’pore’. (1955, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. On the dotted line, 6 sign – and a report is ready. (1956, January 31). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Board will run water, light. (1956, January 26). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. The Straits Times, 7 Feb 1956, p. 8; The Singapore Free Press, 26 Jan 1956, p. 1.
7. Govt. to take over utilities. (1958, April 5). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. End of a council. (1959, July 17). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Water dept. moves – now utilities are together. (1959, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Integration of City Council to help. (1959, November 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1962, June 27). Public Utilities Bill. (Vol. 18, col. 28). Retrieved from Parliament of Singapore website: http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic.jsp?currentTopicID=00051166-ZZ¤tPubID=00069072-ZZ&topicKey=00069072-ZZ.00051166-ZZ_1%2Bid022_19620627_S0003_T00102-bill%2B
12. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1962, July 9). Public Utilities Bill (Vol. 19, cols. 11–16). Retrieved November 28, 2013, from Parliament of Singapore website: http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic.jsp?currentTopicID=00051245-ZZ¤tPubID=00069080-ZZ&topicKey=00069080-ZZ.00051245-ZZ_1%2Bid007_19620709_S0002_T00071-bill%2B
13. Public invited to state views on five bills. (1962, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. (1962, September 25). Report of the Select Committee on the Public Utilities, Local Government Intergration, Planning (Amendment), Pensions (Amendment) and Housing and Development (Amendment) Bills. Retrieved November 28, 2013, from Parliament of Singapore website: http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/SelectCommittee/resource/pdf/1962/19620925_BIL_FULL.pdf
15. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1963, April 5). Public Utilities Bill (Vol. 20, cols. 88–119). Retrieved November 28, 2013, from Parliament of Singapore website: http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic.jsp?currentTopicID=00051351-ZZ¤tPubID=00069087-ZZ&topicKey=00069087-ZZ.00051351-ZZ_1%2Bid056_19630405_S0002_T00132-bill%2B
16. State of Singapore. Government Gazette. Extraordinary. (1963, May 2). (G.N. 47, p. 841). Singapore. Call no.: RSING 959.57 SGG.
17. Public Utilities Board. (1964). Annual report 1963–64. Singapore: Government Printer. Call no.: RSING 354.59570087 SPUB.
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.