Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Maintaining Standards of our Civil Service

Frontline work of civil service is key: DPM Teo Chee Hean

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that engaging the public is key, as he called on public servants to support their frontline colleagues.

He urged civil service agencies to maintain good standards of service, but added that they will be supported in the face of unfair accusations or abuse.

Mr Teo, the Minister in Charge of the Civil Service, made these points in a message to the civil service at the start of Public Service Week today.

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The Public Service today is not the one of yesterday



The Public Service today is not the Public Service of yesterday. Too much of politicking without really doing their best can be deduced. The failure of the leadership will also be a reflection on the failure of the Public Service. For simplicity sake and for the benefit of all Singaporeans of our kind, that is born and bred here, let analyse the failings: 

Education - Will any principals or higher authority do a study of Singaporeans in terms of their IQ and EQ and tell us they lack talents compared to the foreign so called talented students? Was giving scholarships for free justified when our own Singaporeans many with good qualifications but not given the opportunity because of the second language and so on? Did any education high officer do a study and tell us that Singaporeans lack talents?

Tell us the score of the foreign students against the local students? Is it shade better or far better than Singaporeans? Then what were they doing in assuring that our education system is fine tuned to be the best with our own Singaporeans making the grade against the foreign students? So much is said and can we have quantifiable figures not only on IQ but a test done for EQ as well. A culture and assimilation is far important then a piece of paper! Answers???

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Erosion of trust in public institutions not necessarily a bad thing


The recent expressed concerns by some quarters about the supposed erosion of trust in our public institutions have been picked up by the mainstream media here. The Straits Times had a two-page special feature on it this week [pictured above].

The report has a rather curious title, “Trust in public institutions: Can S’pore afford cracks?” Can any country, at all, afford “cracks” in the trust for their public institutions? One would think not. At least, that would not be desirable – except at times when that trust is not deserved. And that is a point which commentaries and reports such as the one by the Straits Times have missed.

Some have laid the blame of this supposed erosion of trust in our public institutions on this broad group called “online cynics”, without also questioning why such erosion has taken place. But if one were to look at the root cause of this, the answers would be quite apparent, and they could be manifold.

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New programme to help civil servants become specialists

A new leadership programme was launched to help civil servants become specialists in their respective fields.

Called the Public Service Leadership (PSL) programme, it is targeted at officers with deep specialist skills. It covers five sectors - economy building, infrastructure and environment, security, social and central administration.

Mr Peter Ong, the head of civil service, said: "We are investing more resources and attention to develop these specialist leaders so that they can, in turn, train and develop other officers at various levels. This will lift capabilities for the entire public service."

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'The civil service must know when to stand firm'

There is a story going around the civil service of a person who goes to a police station and asks the officer to return his library book for him.


This extreme interpretation of the civil service's "no wrong door" policy is no tall tale, however.


Mr Peter Ong, head of the 136,000-strong civil service, recounts it to show how some citizens feel more empowered and, at times, more entitled these days.

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The public service cannot up its game without changing its fundamental mindset 

peter lim

In a media interview to mark Public Service Week, Civil Service Head Peter Ong said that the public service needs to do things differently, putting people at the centre, and moving to a more relational government which is a government with the people, where citizens participate in working at solutions for the country.

Unfortunately, his statements come in the wake of rising resentment against government policies, more frequent threats of legal action against netizens, and the increased use of state power against social and civil activists.

We have had two major rallies at Hong Lim Park against the Population White Paper which projects that the population may be allowed to rise as high as 6.9 million by the year 2030. Unofficial hearsay suggests that the government may be planning for as high as a 7 or 8 million population, which is not out of the question given the government’s propensity at blunting the trauma of highly unpleasant policies by releasing incremental data rather than giving the whole truth at once to the citizenry.

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Civil Service Head doesn't get it



So what does the Admin Service really think about us or more accurately what they want us to think about them in these two articles. I am afraid Peter Ong missed it, lost it. Don't even need to read the main article. Just the subsidiary one on the Population White Paper would do.

They still don't get it. Too much pride to defend and self esteem to preserve. The admin service was simply out of touch with the people. How else could they have gotten it so wrong? Then they blame the world for changing too quickly. I wished they would just blame themselves as that is the only way to begin to do better.

This is the only bit worth reading is at the end of the article. Peter Ong's counterparts consoled him that we are a far easier bunch to serve. Well the civil service leaders and ministers have been taking us for granted for too long. We must never allow them to sell us cheap so easily again. We were sold for a song such that foreigners especially some Chinese can't helped themselves but tell us that we are being stupid to give away so much for nothing. That's why citizens feel second class to foreigners in our own country. 

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The civil service and the lack of public trust

The backlash against the White Paper on Population was “unfortunate” said head of the civil service Peter Ong in today’s issue of the ST (Saturday, 25th May 2013). The public outrage against the 6.9 million population figure in 2030 held up two lessons for the civil service.

One, it could have better anticipated that the 6.9 million figure could draw attention away from everything else. Two, the timing was off. Therein rest the nub of the issues on the erosion of TRUST in the civil service

First, a Freudian slip that it would have been better to obscure the 6.9 million figure to lead the people away from the crux of the issue. Never mind if it was back-pedaling after the fact. Second, there is no question of timing in the release of the Population White Paper.

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Trust in public institutions: Can Singapore afford cracks?


In his message to mark Public Service Week this week, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean talked about the need for civil servants to support front-line colleagues should they be subject to unfair accusations or abuse. His remarks put the spotlight on what many see as a gradual erosion of trust in Singapore's public institutions. They have played a critical role in the country's success, and some find recent attacks against them troubling. Jeremy Au Yong reports. The Straits Times, 25 May 2013

A HYPOTHETICAL scenario was put forward by Professor Kishore Mahbubani in The Straits Times last month: What would happen if people were stuck in an MRT breakdown and did not trust the public transport operator to fix the problem or the authorities to come to their rescue?

When trains broke down on the North-South line in 2011, the answer to that question was that commuters sat in stifling heat for up to an hour before they were rescued by SMRT staff.

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Not happy then please leave Singapore

After disagreeing with the Malaysian politics, will the unhappy PAP ask the unhappy Singaporean citizens to leave the country? Some things similar to the newly appointed Malaysian Home Minister suggested to their countrymen. 

If you read about this article, “ S’pore cannot afford to import M’sian politics”,  (http://www.todayonline.com/commentary/spore-cannot-afford-import-msian-politics) you will know how unhappy the PAP is. Not only they are unhappy about the political development in Malaysia, they are also afraid of the consequences – the migration of voters, especially Malay voters from BN to PR.

The ruling BN is under pressure. The pressure is so unbearable that the result is:   

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Public service wants to up its game



In an interview to mark Public Service Week, Civil Service Head Peter Ong invites Singaporeans to join hands with civil servants to take Singapore forward, discusses public sector talent and salaries and government transparency. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: In your various speeches earlier, you spoke about formulating policies from citizens' perspective rather than from the agencies which implement them. Tell us more.

A: All over the world, change is going on - same macro forces. Of course we have our uniquely Singapore drivers and factors, but across the world you can see, across different political systems, this change that's I think a great opportunity for citizens to also rise up to play their part. And I think we'll be a more resilient society and nation as a result of being able to work well together.

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Can the Public Service up its game?



Am I getting old and slow? I found myself having to read this more than once to understand it.

Good that the service wants to up its game but I think they have are stuck in a gold box problem, and there is nothing better than a golden box because it is the best box.

Easiest I just quote an example Peter Ong gave. A low hanging fruit to pluck why I say they don't get it. Much clearer this way. 

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33,000 grassroots get priority for Primary 1, HDB, free parking, etc?

I refer to the articles “More new immigrants to serve as grassroots leaders” (Channel NewsAsia, May 18) and “MP Indranee: P1 registration priority given to grassroots leaders not based along party lines” (TR Emeritus, May 13)

Primary 1 priority? - The latter states that “In Parliament today (13 May), NCMP Lina Chiam asked about the Primary One registration which gives priorities to “active community leaders”.

She posed the following questions to MOE in Parliament:

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What having a university education really means

Is a degree no longer that important?

That has been the subject of some debate recently, after four ministers spoke in quick succession on how a degree is not the only path to success for young Singaporeans.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who started the ball rolling in a recent speech to polytechnic students, spoke of the many good options available to poly grads besides a degree, such as working for a few years or starting their own business.

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OPINION: Singapore leaders seek to reduce local graduates as mass intake of foreigners led to excess supply of degree holders

Malaysia Star, 25 May 2013
Having a large number of graduates, once thought crucial for Singapore’s prosperity, is now considered not conducive to the changing manpower market, at least in Singapore.

However, none of the political leaders – the Prime Minister and three ministers – has mentioned another reason for the excess of graduates – the mass intake of foreigners.

Led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, the leaders are now advising Singaporeans to consider non-university routes to success.
Khaw said: “You own a degree, but so what? You can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.”

Then it was the turn of Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who said that a good qualification alone does not guarantee a career, let alone a job. 

Thirdly, Acting Minister for Social and Fa­mily De­ve­l­opment Chan Chun Sing said it is not the degree or diploma that is most important for graduates, but the ability to learn a different set of skills. Full story

Related:
Dumbing of Singaporeans have been a great success - Sammyboy Forum


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Taking the Men in Suits and Wigs to court



The laws governing contempt of court are controversial in their own right. What constitutes such an offence? They can vary from offences such as showing blatant disregard or disrespect to the judge, disobeying a court order, disrupting the proceedings of the court or publication of materials that are likely to jeopardise a fair trial.

There are two tests to establish whether one is guilty of contempt of court. The first one is the “inherent tendency test”, which attempts to determine whether an action “had the inherent tendency to interfere with the administration of justice”. The criticism of this test is that it imposes no requirements to prove intent on the part of the accused to interfere with the administration of justice. Hence, it has a lower threshold that the other test, known as the “real risk test”.

The “real risk test” was adopted in favour of the “inherent tendency test” in the Shadrake vs AGC case. For this test, the requirement is that the accused’s action (s) harbours a real risk of affecting public confidence in the administration of justice, as opposed to a mere possibility. Alan Shadrake was a British writer wrote a book titled “One a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock” in 2010, and he was subsequently accused of “scandalising the court.” The “real risk test was adopted in other commonwealth jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, New Zealand and United Kingdom out of the need to protect the right to freedom and expression.

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related:
Crime, Corruption, Scandal & Professional Misconduct 2
Crime, Corruption, Scandal & Professional Misconduct 1
Paying high salaries to mitigate corruption
Maintaining Standards of our Civil Service