Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on retired senior SAF Officers holding senior positions in public sector organisations

04 October 2021

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on retired senior SAF Officers holding senior positions in public sector organisations

Parliamentary Sitting: 4 October 2021

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song: To ask the Prime Minister (a) how many currently retired SAF officers with the rank of colonel or ME7 and above have held senior positions in public sector organisations; (b) how does PSD determine which officers have sufficient competencies to lead these organisations despite not having had civilian work experience; and (c) whether PSD has considered requiring these officers to spend several years building up sectoral knowledge and skills before taking the helm of these organisations.

Written Reply by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service.

As at 24 Sep 2021, there are 15 officers formerly from the SAF who are currently holding senior leadership appointments in the Public Service (e.g. Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries and Chief Executives).  They form around 10% of these appointments. Looking at the figures another way, of the SAF personnel holding the rank of Colonel or ME7 and above who retired between 2010 and now, about 7% went on to assume senior Public Service appointments.

In line with recruitment for other positions in the Public Service, we adopt the principle of “best available person for the job” in recruiting for senior appointments.  Agencies typically consider candidates from within the ranks of their organisations, the wider Public Service including the Uniformed Services, and where relevant, the private sector.  When it comes to former Uniformed Services officers, agencies would take a considered view of the officer’s career experience and competencies/qualities, together with other available candidates, before deciding on the best person for the senior role.

Candidates from the SAF, or the Uniformed Services in general, including the Home Team, would have served in roles that have developed in them a range of competencies, such as strategic leadership, organisation transformation, policy formulation, running of large-scale operations, and technology management, that are generally relevant to senior management positions in the Public Service. They also have valuable experience in working with, understanding, motivating, and winning the confidence of Full-time and Operationally Ready National Servicemen who are Singaporeans from all walks of life. Officers who demonstrate the capacity to assume top leadership positions are tested and prepared through challenging postings and leadership programmes. In addition, these officers are provided opportunities to develop Whole-of-Government perspectives through inter-agency projects, board directorships and external postings to the Public Service during their military careers.  These experiences prepare the officers to assume senior appointments in the military, and also provide them with the background and perspective to take on senior leadership positions in the wider Public Service, if called upon and found suitable.

Sector-specific knowledge and skills are part of the considerations, but not the only consideration. Public Service leadership teams are expected to comprise leaders who bring diverse experiences to the table and operate cohesively as a team, tapping on each other’s skills and experiences.