Public Service for the 21st Century
Oral Reply to Parliamentary Question on Public Service for the 21st Century
Parliamentary Sitting Date: 20 July 2009
Dr Fatimah Lateef: To ask the Prime Minister how and what are the steps to be undertaken to re-energise and inject greater collaboration amongst civil servants in various Government departments under the Public Service for the 21st Century (PS21) initiative.
Oral Reply (for the Prime Minister) by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Civil Service, and Minister for Defence:
Dr Fatimah asked how the Public Service will inject greater collaboration amongst public officers in various government departments.
Fostering greater collaboration amongst public officers in different agencies is an important priority of the Public Service. There are many issues that the Public Service deals with that involve multiple agencies.
We have taken two approaches to foster greater collaboration. The first is by building a Whole-of-Government mindset among public officers. This must start with the leadership of the Public Service, and extend to all levels of officers. For example, each year, we gather around 900 public sector leaders and senior public officers from different ministries and statutory boards at the annual Public Service Staff Conference to be briefed on critical issues facing our country so that they can better appreciate the need to work together. The Civil Service College also conducts leadership development programmes for some 1,200 officers each year. During these seminars and programmes, they discuss policy and operational issues which cut across different agencies and learn skills on how to better collaborate with each other.
We have also increased efforts to build a common identity and shared purpose amongst public officers. This is why we started the Public Service Week last year, to remind officers that although they come from different organisations, they all have a responsibility to serve Singaporeans and work toward the public good.
The second approach is by increasing the opportunities for public officers to put their Whole-of-Government mindset into practice through working on actual issues. Let me share some examples. Officers from the Singapore Land Authority and JTC came together to work on shore protection for reclaimed land1, creating a new method that takes less time and costs less.
Officers from various maritime agencies and organisations such as the Singapore Armed Forces, Police Coast Guard, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and Singapore Customs have formed a Maritime Security Task Force to ensure tighter security for our maritime borders. And the Committee headed by the Ministry of Home Affairs to deal with the current H1N1 situation is supported strongly by officers from many public agencies, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, the Ministry of National Development, and the Public Service Division.
But there is always room for improvement. Public officers are encouraged to be open and receptive to new ideas and suggestions. Today, there is a healthy flow and exchange of ideas and suggestions, within each agency and also across them. The Public Service also actively solicits ideas from the public. We may not accept every idea, but we study each idea carefully, weighing the merits against broader community, public, and national interests.
Every year, during Public Service Week, we recognise public officers who have gone the extra mile to serve the public or who made good suggestions for improving service levels. This year, for the first time, we recognised three members of the public for making very useful and constructive suggestions that improved the services provided by the Ministry of Manpower, the Accountant-General’s Department and the CPF Board.
Therefore, not only are we fostering greater collaboration across government agencies, we also want to encourage a healthy and constructive engagement and partnership between the Public Service and the public we serve.
1 For a very long time, rock bunds were used to prevent reclaimed land from being washed away. But when JTC adopted a sensible practice of reclaiming land just in time to meet demand, companies moving in often removed the rock bunds soon after they had been built. The companies replaced them with other types of shore protection customised to suit their special requirements, such as to allow ships to dock. Clearly, it was a waste to build the rock bunds only to have them removed soon after. The joint team from JTC and SLA therefore came up with a risk management approach. This meant analysing the wave impact on different stretches of the reclaimed land and putting in minimum shore protection that is just sufficient to prevent soil erosion before the reclaimed land is sold. Every year, for every kilometre of land reclaimed under this new approach, the Government and the companies save a total of $16 million and reduce construction time by 7.7 months.