Singapore

Chan Chun Sing lays out benchmarks for success in public sector

Chan Chun Sing lays out benchmarks for success in public service

Recent events have called into question the integrity of the public service, and some people have asked whether it can be trusted to know its own blind spots or to take responsibility for mistakes, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

These questions go to the "heart" of what the public service stands for, Mr Chan said in a 25-minute speech, in which he also laid out his benchmarks for success in the public service.

These are the public service's ability to preempt tomorrow's challenges; its ability to continuously improve today's services; and its values of service, integrity and excellence.

Speaking at the annual Administrative Service dinner and promotion ceremony, Mr Chan also spelt out what integrity means in the public service - recognising strengths and weaknesses and acknowledging the need to do better, and taking responsibility for actions taken.

While he did not specify the events that had led to questions on the integrity of the public service, there have been a series of lapses in the public sector.

These include the SingHealth data breach in which hackers stole the personal data of 1.5 million patients, the leak of HIV patient data and the personal information of blood donors being improperly put online by an IT vendor.

Mr Chan, who is also the Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, said that for the service to check its own blind spots, the officers must never believe they have all the best ideas, all the necessary skills or that they can carry out the tasks alone.

To this end, the public service must build diverse teams for resilience, he said. "A good public service needs teams who can do policy well, have operational experience on the ground, can communicate well, and also have international exposure and perspectives.

"And this is why I ask the public service to review the way we select and develop our leaders," he told the gathering of 300 at ParkRoyal hotel in Beach Road.

During the ceremony, 13 officers were appointed into the Administrative Service and another 59 were promoted.

The minister said he was glad the Head of Civil Service, Mr Leo Yip, and the Public Service Commission are reviewing the way officers are selected and groomed.

On responsibility, he said: "When things go wrong, we are all accountable for our responsibilities and for the men and women under our charge. When things go wrong, we never blame the whole world and ask who should we punish collectively or indiscriminately."

As a political office holder, it is his job to "stand in the gap" and his duty to take the public pressure, he said.

The minister said a forward-looking public service must spend at least 20 per cent of its energies pre-empting tomorrow's challenges, besides fixing today's problems. Individuals need to learn new things and build new capabilities.

Another 20 per cent of the time should be devoted to improving the way tasks are done today, leaving 60 per cent to conscientiously execute these tasks well, he added.

Six months’ childcare subsidy for job-seeking mothers

Job-seeking mothers have more time to look for a job now, thanks to a doubling in the duration of childcare subsidy - from three months to six.

The change, introduced last month, is an example of how the public service is adjusting its policies to be more citizen-centric, said Mr Eugene Leong, chief executive of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

The subsidy that a job-seeking mother receives is equivalent to that of a working mother: $600 a month for each child for infant care and $300 a month for each child for childcare.

Mr Leong said the change in policy gives mothers time to look for a job without having to struggle to pay childcare fees.

RE-LOOKING PROCESSES

Non-working mothers get $150 a month for each child in infant care or childcare.

Mr Leong cited the changes as part of how the public service is re-examining its processes from citizens' perspectives to ensure that they are actually getting the support they need.

Mr Leong, 44, was one of the 59 officers whose promotions were announced at the annual Administrative Service Dinner and Promotion Ceremony held yesterday at the ParkRoyal hotel in Beach Road.

On April 1, he also took on the role of second deputy secretary at the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

In an interview last Friday, Mr Leong spelt out the direction he hopes the service will take.

He cited the ECDA's KidStart scheme, which helps disadvantaged children through health, learning and developmental support.

It works with different partners - such as social service offices and family service centres - for referrals, and grassroots and community partners to find areas to hold playgroups, with parents encouraged to attend the sessions, he said.

The ECDA is working with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) to provide more places for potential educators.

NIEC, set up last May, plans to admit about 700 students into the inaugural cohort of its new diploma programme this year, double the total intake for such programmes in 2015. - ADRIAN LIM

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