Opening Address By Mr Teo Chee Hean at the Excellence In Public Service Awards Ceremony
FRIDAY, 23 MAY 2014, 4.10 PM, FLOWER FIELD HALL, GARDENS BY THE BAY
“Working Together to Serve Singaporeans Better”
Head of Civil Service,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good Afternoon to all of you.
2. I am very happy to join you at this year’s Excellence in Public Service Awards Ceremony at this beautiful location here at Gardens by the Bay.
3. Each year, we recognise public agencies and public officers who have done well to improve the lives of Singaporeans. We also recognise fellow Singaporeans who have partnered public agencies in service delivery.
Public Service – Working Together to Serve Singaporeans Better
4. The Public Service’s mission is to develop policies and implement programmes that make Singapore better for Singaporeans. Our public service pioneers have brought Singapore from Third World to First: Growing the economy and creating jobs. Providing education, healthcare, and housing. Developing infrastructure such as roads and drains. Making Singapore clean and green and beautiful. Building up our defence and security capabilities while strengthening foreign relations.
5. They have provided a strong foundation for all of us to make Singapore even better as Singapore enters a new phase of development. We must continue to build on this foundation as the needs and interests of Singaporeans have become more diverse – due in part to better education, changing demographics, and broader and higher aspirations. Many Singaporeans also want to contribute their ideas and time to help make Singapore better – including how to improve public policy and services. How can the Public Service evolve to draw on their energy and ideas, to help Singaporeans achieve their aspirations, to build a better Singapore for all of us?
6. The Public Service must place renewed emphasis on “Working Together to Serve Singaporeans Better” in three areas. One, work more closely with one another, across agencies, to effectively resolve issues that Singaporeans face. Two, seek to better understand and respond to the needs of Singaporeans. Three, tap on the ideas and energy of Singaporeans, and create space for them to participate in the development of policies and implementation of programmes.
7. First, strengthening inter-agency collaboration. The issues and challenges that Singapore and Singaporeans face often cut across multiple agencies. To resolve such issues effectively, agencies have to see beyond their own mandates, and work closely together with one another. We must continue to nurture a strong One Public Service mindset among our public officers, and encourage stronger inter-agency collaboration, in order to deliver better outcomes.
8. The restructuring of some of our agencies to bring all pre-school issues, previously handled by different agencies, under the new Early Childhood Development Agency is one such example. This will help us provide stronger support to parents to bring out the potential in all Singaporeans from an early age. This is one of our priorities. We are also setting up Social Service Offices to provide more coordinated and integrated care to needy Singaporeans. These new agencies have already started to deliver better outcomes.
9. Government services have also been restructured to deal with day-to-day issues. In March 2012, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority set up the Animal Response Centre as the single point of contact bringing together multiple agencies to resolve animal-related issues speedily and effectively. For stepping up to deal with these issues, AVA will be receiving the Best Practice Award in Inter-agency Collaboration today.
10. Second, being more responsive to changing needs. The needs of Singaporeans have grown more diverse, and are changing more rapidly. Public agencies and officers must understand the concerns and interests of Singaporeans and adjust policies and programmes to meet these changing needs.
11. Some rules and processes may be outdated or no longer relevant. Let me give one recent example. For security reasons, mobile phones with cameras had not been allowed in MINDEF and SAF camps. However, such a rule was increasingly inconvenient and impractical for our NSmen. Mobile phones with cameras had become the norm rather than an exclusive feature only for some; phones without cameras were becoming a rarity, almost a museum piece. MINDEF therefore took in these concerns from our National Servicemen and allowed mobile phones with cameras, but in a tiered approach, in less sensitive areas. The majority of NSFs and NSmen can now continue using their mobile phones while in camp. This helps them to balance their NS duties with their work and family commitments. At the same time, MINDEF too balanced its security needs with the needs of our National Servicemen.
12. Third, encouraging participation. With a better educated and more diverse population, we are seeing more Singaporeans who are willing and able to contribute their ideas, time and services to improving public service delivery. Public agencies can benefit by finding new ways to engage and involve our citizens to jointly develop and implement solutions to issues that matter to them.
13. Recognising the importance of involving stakeholders early, the URA put out a Draft Master Plan 2013 to solicit views from fellow Singaporeans and other stakeholders, so that their views could be incorporated into the eventual Master Plan.
14. URA found that the community and stakeholders appreciated being kept informed of future plans early. URA benefited from the good ideas from different stakeholders, and Singaporeans were better able to appreciate the diverse needs of different interest groups, and the considerations behind the Draft Master Plan 2013.
15. We are also happy to see more Singaporeans coming forward to contribute their time and effort. Five Singaporeans, Mr Abdul Hamid, Mr Anthony Au, Mr Loh Wan Heng, Mdm Saniah and Mdm Yeo Chwee Fong will be receiving the PS21 Star Customer Award today, for their active contributions to public service. Thank you for working together with our agencies to make life better for all of us. I encourage public agencies to consider new areas and find new ways to tap on the ideas and energy of fellow Singaporeans, to help us develop better policies and programmes, and to help us have a sense of ownership to build our Singapore together.
Serving with Heart
16. We have many public officers who are passionate about improving the lives of fellow Singaporeans. 133 public officers will receive the PS21 Star Service Awards this year.
17. Mr Lu Juncai from the People’s Association is one of them. His job is to promote and market Community Centre (CC) activities, courses and events, and encourage residents to sign up for CC membership. However, he has not let his job scope limit his service to the community.
18. One day, Juncai received a call requesting for financial assistance from a resident. Instead of passing on the request to his colleague whose job was responsible for financial assistance, he decided to meet the caller over lunch to understand his situation better. The caller was a 54 year old man who was single, suffers from kidney failure and was unable to work. With a listening ear and a better understanding of the situation, Juncai facilitated his colleagues’ and the grassroots leaders’ efforts to provide financial assistance for the resident. He sought to understand the factors behind the immediate issue, and took action beyond the scope of his duties. This brought about a better inter-agency and community response to provide the necessary assistance, to extend help with a heart to a resident in need. Thank you Juncai for doing so.
19. Many of our officers tell me that the work you do is deeply satisfying and meaningful, and you find fulfilment from making a difference to Singapore and our fellow Singaporeans – and that is why you are in the Public Service.
20. Besides the 18 agencies and 133 officers receiving awards this year, many front-line agencies and many public officers have done good work in the last two years to improve service delivery and policy responsiveness. I hope our award winners will inspire all of us to do even better.
21. Today, we also come together to re-affirm the Public Service values of Integrity, Service and Excellence. To remind ourselves that we must work together as One Public Service, united by these values. To commit ourselves anew as a Public Service that works together with our fellow Singaporeans to build a better future for ourselves and our children. To dedicate ourselves to Working Together to Serve Singaporeans Better.
22. Thank you for your good work and dedication.