Speech by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the Public Service Awards Ceremony
AT THE PUBLIC SERVICE AWARDS CEREMONY ON 15 OCTOBER 2015, SUNTEC SINGAPORE CONVENTION AND EXHIBITION CENTRE
Friends and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon to all of you.
1. Each year, at the Public Service Week in May, public officers reaffirm our commitment to serve our country and our people. In this special SG50 year, rather than a week, we have arranged for several significant occasions over the whole month of October for the public and our public officers to reflect on and celebrate what we have achieved together as a country. It will also provide an opportunity for our public officers to rededicate ourselves as a Public Service to making Singapore even better for all Singaporeans.
Serving with you for 50 years
2. Our public officers have been serving with Singaporeans for 50 years, working together to build our nation. We see the results all around us today. The work of our public officers continues – educating our young, looking after those in need, building homes to house our people, creating good jobs, cleaning and greening Singapore, defending Singapore, and keeping us safe and secure.
3. We celebrated this tradition of commitment and service at this year’s National Day Parade – paying tribute to families who have served in the uniformed services for two to three generations. We also have families, like that of Mr Mohd Marhan Bin Hanef and two of his cousins, who are the fourth generation in their family working in the same public agency – in this case PUB and its predecessors. Mr Marhan was inspired to join PUB by his father, who had spent about 50 years working in PUB. Mr Marhan’s great-grandfather, grandfather and granduncle had also spent their entire careers in PUB’s predecessors, the Singapore Municipal Council and the Singapore City Council. All of them have played a part in our eventful journey towards ensuring that Singaporeans will have enough of this precious resource, water.
4. Their story, along with many others, is chronicled in a set of two commemorative books, “Heart of Public Service”, which I am happy to launch today. One volume, “Our People”, showcases how public officers live out our core values of Integrity, Service and Excellence, and how you keep Singapore ticking by serving the public tirelessly, every hour of every day. The other volume, “Our Institutions”, traces the development of the Public Service, and how we tackled and overcame crises and challenges along our journey of nationhood.
5. I hope the stories in these two volumes will remind us all about how the work of our public officers improves the lives of fellow Singaporeans, and will inspire our public officers to continually do our best for Singapore and Singaporeans.
Serving better with you
6. The challenges we face as a country and as a Public Service are just as exciting and important today as in our formative years. Singapore’s economy faces not just regional, but also global competition. Technology and automation continue to transform our lives. Increasingly, citizens want to share their knowledge and experience, and play a more active role in shapingour community, and national policies and programmes.
7. As we celebrate SG50 and gear ourselves up for SG100, the Government and the Public Service must continue to work hand in hand with Singaporeans to improve everyone’s lives and ensure that Singapore remains successful.
8. How can we do so? The Public Service must stay anchored in our values of Integrity, Service and Excellence. These values remain at the core of our beliefs, and all that we do. Simple to say, but not so simple to achieve. Building on this foundation, the Public Service must prepare itself to meet the challenges of the future. More than ever, we need a Public Service that is “with Singaporeans” – a Public Service that is Caring, Coordinated and Connected.
9. First, the Public Service must uphold its tradition of being Caring. Today, we recognise some 300 public officers, teams, agencies and community partners who serve from the heart to care for fellow Singaporeans.
10. One of our PS21 Star Service Award winners is Ms Leela Devan. Leela is a school counsellor in Yuying Secondary School. Through careful observation and assessment, Leela has been able to detect cases of mental, emotional and developmental disorders in her students which had not previously been surfaced. In one case, Leela persuaded the parents of a student who had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to seek treatment for the student. Because of her care and intervention, the student is performing much better in school today. So everyone counts, and the work of everyone counts.
11. Public officers like Leela exemplify our vision of being One Trusted Public Service with Citizens at the Centre.
12. The Public Service has also implemented many programmes and platforms to build a more caring and inclusive society. The Pioneer Generation Package, the new MediShield Life, and the more flexible CPF Life will provide more assurance for all Singaporeans throughout their lives. Since July 2013, we have also set up a network of more than 20 Social Service Offices across the island to better help vulnerable and needy families. There are programmes and policies which need public officers to implement, to care and connect, to be the last mile, last contact with our citizens, fellow Singaporeans, to come through and make a difference.
13. Beyond the daily work of public officers, the Public Service will also encourage a culture of volunteerism and caring among our public officers. I know that many of you already do so in your own time. I am glad that the Public Service will collectively commit to adopt at least 50 charities in the coming year. To support this, one senior officer in each ministry will have the additional role of being the champion and facilitator to encourage volunteerism among officers in the ministry and its statutory boards. Starting next year, civil servants will be able to take one day of volunteer leave per year. It is a token, to encourage our officers to volunteer at any Institution of Public Character of their choice.
14. Second, we need a well-coordinated Public Service to develop and deliver policies and programmes well. Our public officers must strive continually to work closely with each other and not just within each agency, but also across ministries and agencies.
15. In July this year, we set up the Strategy Group in the Prime Minister’s Office to strengthen Whole-of-Government coordination and planning of strategic policies. This unit helps to “join the dots” across different ministries, and works with them to develop whole-of-government solutions for cross-cutting issues so that we can do a beter job across agencies.
16. We have also been improving our service delivery and inter-agency coordination and collaboration.
17. The Municipal Services Office (MSO) set up in October 2014 has improved coordination and resolution of municipal issues. MSO launched the OneService mobile app in January this year. The app allows users to provide feedback more conveniently, based on issues that the public faces, rather than by agency. In the eight months since then, more than 38,000 residents have registered to use the app, with over 18,000 cases submitted.
18. Through this year’s major national events, we have also seen how much the Public Service can achieve when our officers come together regardless of organisational boundaries to carry out their duties to the best of our abilities.
19. Third, a Public Service that stays Connected with the people we serve – to listen deeply and better understand aspirations and concerns, and to work together with Singaporeans to make Singapore a better home for all of us. 50,000 Singaporeans from all walks of life took part in “Our Singapore Conversation” to discuss and share with one another our hopes and dreams for our future. These conversations helped develop policies, develop ideas, better execution to take us forward over the last five years. We will take this discussion further. “The Future of Us” exhibition opening on 1st December will provide a new opportunity for Singaporeans to come together to discuss issues that are important to us, but more importantly, also to motivate each of us to do what we can to build Singapore’s future together.
20. I am heartened that Singaporeans have already been stepping forward to co-create solutions with the Government. For example, in July this year, over 1,100 students, programmers, designers, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals came together for Hackathon@SG, which was held in tandem with the MIT Hacking Medicine@SG. The participants worked together to develop solutions to real-life challenges in healthcare, urban living, city planning and public services. And, just on Tuesday, about 100 people participated in a hackathon to develop mobile apps to address haze-related issues.
21. Many Singaporeans are already actively contributing to the community, in the community. For example, our volunteer Pioneer Generation Ambassadors have been visiting Pioneers at home to provide personalised explanations of how they may benefit from the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life. Since August 2014, our PG Ambassadors have reached out to more than one-third of all our Pioneers. These volunteers include students, working adults, retirees, housewives and professionals. The youngest is just 15 years old, and the oldest is just 88 years young!
22. I met many of our Pioneers through house visits, and they really appreciate the visits as they help to bring home policies better. It is not just the PG package, but we have actually delivered a peace of mind to these Pioneers, so that they can age gracefully, and that is intangible.
23. The PG Ambassadors are not the only ones coming forward to make a difference. Mrs Betty Mok, a Singaporean working in Brazil, is one of this year’s PS21 Star Customers. She helped the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assist a Singaporean who had fallen seriously ill during a long flight, and was hospitalised in Rio de Janeiro. The nearest Singapore Embassy is in Brasilia, about 1,000km from Rio de Janeiro. The Embassy reached out to its contacts in the Rio de Janeiro region to see if anyone could provide urgent help.Betty responded without hesitation, and travelled two hours by car to Rio to check on the hospitalised Singaporean’s condition on several occasions. She also provided emotional support to the Singaporean’s next-of-kin, and continued to monitor his condition until he was well enough to return home to Singapore.
24. Many Singaporeans have similarly heart-warming experiences. We have Singaporeans who volunteer with the Police to help keep their neighbourhoods safe. Active gardeners who keep their community gardens blooming. Those who help put out fires or provide emergency medical assistance to their neighbours in those crucial minutes before emergency responders arrive. All these show that we are a society that takes care of one another, and that Singaporeans are willing to do more to make neighbourhoods and communities better.
25. By building stronger Connections we can develop even better policies and programmes, tap on what our fellow Singaporeans can contribute, and deliver more holistic and better services to Singaporeans in a more personalised way, in a more inclusive way
26. As we celebrate SG50, I encourage all public officers to reflect deeply, be inspired by the spirit of our Public Service pioneers, and look actively for opportunities to make Singapore even better. Build on the strong foundation laid by our pioneers. Live up to the Public Service values of Integrity, Service and Excellence. As a Public Service, remember that we are all striving together towards a common cause - a better Singapore for all Singaporeans.
27. Together, let us make the Public Service even more Caring, more Coordinated and more Connected. Let us build a Singapore we all continue to be proud of, as we progress towards SG100.
28. Once again, congratulations and thank you to the officers and agencies receiving awards today. Keep up the good work! Well done.
 Civil servants are currently able to apply for unrecorded leave beyond their annual vacation leave for a variety of approved purposes such as parent care and marriage, up to an annual cap of 14 calendar days. Volunteer leave will be included as another approved purpose from 1 January 2016.