Speech by Mr Peter Ong at the Administrative Service Dinner & Promotion Ceremony
AT THE ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICE DINNER AND PROMOTION CEREMONY
26 APRIL 2016, SHANGRI-LA HOTEL SINGAPORE
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean
Minister Lim Swee Say
Chairman & Members of the Public Service Commission
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good evening and welcome to the 28th Administrative Service Dinner and Promotion Ceremony.
2. We are honoured and privileged to have the Prime Minister as our Guest-of-Honour tonight.
3. I would also like to congratulate our 65 promotees and 21 newly appointed Administrative Officers.
4. We are at the start of a new term of Government. Parliament was opened in January and Budget 2016 was just approved this month. Coming out from a very eventful SG50, it is a good time for us to reflect on the role of the Public Service and I would like to thank Prime Minister Lee for sharing his thoughts with us on this matter. As we look ahead, we will need strong Public Service leadership to boldly lead the Service in seizing new opportunities and surmounting the challenges that we will face. Tonight, let me describe what we need to develop superior leadership in the Public Service.
5. First, we need to build a diverse leadership corps with varied skills to meet the evolving challenges. Second, we need to forge deeper and more extensive partnerships with our stakeholders. Third, we need to envision our future together with our fellow officers. We have already started doing this. Let me explain.
Building a diverse leadership corps
6. The Public Service today operates in a sophisticated environment brought about by advances in technology, with instantaneous transmission of information across the globe. At the same time, Singaporeans possess a greater diversity of values and aspirations. It will become more difficult to find solutions that satisfy everyone, and trade-offs will have to be better managed. We therefore need to build a more diverse leadership pool with more varied skills and perspectives to embrace a wider policy spectrum. The Administrative Service has traditionally been the source of our public sector leadership. We introduced the Public Service Leadership Programme, or PSLP, in 2013 to widen and deepen the leadership corps with capable leaders who are specialists with deep expertise. They work with our Administrative Officers who are generalists integrating the work of agencies across Government. This helps the Public Service to build strong teams with a deeper range of governance capabilities, perspectives and instincts.
7. The Administrative Service and the PSLP are now the key pillars of our leadership corps, providing the pipelines to leadership positions across the entire Public Service. Together, our leadership corps from these two pillars stands at just over 1,000 officers.
8. It is useful for me to briefly describe the profile of our leaders today. They work in a variety of jobs and are educated in a wider range of disciplines. In addition to the traditional fields such as the sciences and humanities, they, especially the younger officers, are also trained in specialist fields such as City and Regional Planning, Criminology, Urban Psychology, Global Health Science, and Symbolic Systems.
9. At entry level to the PSLP, our young leaders also come through a greater number of pathways. While the PSC scholarships remain a key pipeline, we are bringing on board more officers from the ministries and statutory boards through in-service nominations. Last year, 26% of PSLP General Phase officers were in-service nominees or open market recruits compared to 13% a decade ago for the former Management Associates’ Programme. Across all levels, we will continue to identify officers from within and outside the Service, to strengthen our leadership corps. And they will need to prove themselves through continued hard work, results and strong leadership.
10. We have broadened the range of milestone programmes to support the development needs of a more diverse leadership pool. While the Civil Service College has traditionally focused on public officers who are at critical points in their careers, this support has, over the past 10 years, been extended beyond generalist leadership to sectoral and specialist leaders. A decade ago, there were only 7 types of milestone programmes catering to over 800 officers each year. Last year, CSC ran 27 different milestone programmes, catering to more than 1,900 officers. For example, in the Social Sector Milestone Programme, participants get a deeper appreciation for the principles underpinning Singapore’s social policies and safety nets, and develop a greater awareness of the evolving relationship between the Government and non-government players.
11. Our training also extends to programmes which expose our officers to learning opportunities with their peers outside the Public Service. An example is the CSC’s Cross-Sector Leaders Programme (CSLP), which brings together leaders from academia, media, unions, private and people sectors as well as the public sector. Our participants learned how complex initiatives such as CPF Life and the Pioneer Generation Package can be better explained to help citizens understand the rationale behind the policies. Our officers found the exchange of insights to be refreshing, and at times, sobering. This cut and thrust of different perspectives is vital in shaping the policy acumen of our leaders.
12. In line with our desire to broaden our leaders’ perspectives, we also second officers to companies to expose them to the business world. Ms Lydia Loh, who was seconded to Singtel from 2013 to 2015, was part of a strategy team tasked to look for new growth opportunities for Singtel’s enterprise business. Following the denial-of-service attacks by hackers globally, Lydia led a business team to put together a cybersecurity strategy and roadmap. Lydia was fortunate to have been at the heart of transformation; she saw Singtel form a stand-alone Enterprise Security business unit, launch a new Advanced Security Operations Centre and make a billion dollar acquisition in the cybersecurity business.
13. We have also attached officers to unions to help them understand how tripartism unfolds on the ground. Yip Hon Weng and Genevieve Ding were attached to the Union of Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries against the backdrop of a downturn in the local electronics sector due to weak global demand. They saw how Industrial Relations Officers, or IROs, worked tirelessly with the HR departments of affected companies to secure better retrenchment packages for affected workers. As an IRO herself, Genevieve shared how wrenching it was to have to face and encourage retrenched union members, many in disbelief, in tears, and worried about their future. Our officers were however, heartened to see how the union worked hand-in-hand with the Employment and Employability Institute (E2i) during retrenchment exercises, to present affected workers with outplacement options and employability programmes. Hon Weng and Genevieve have come to understand that union work is about building trust, establishing relationships with people from all walks of life, and being willing to learn from everyone. The ground reality has been eye-opening, but the deeper meaning of serving workers’ interests has kept them motivated to develop more effective policies in the future.
14. We also have officers on overseas attachments. Just last year, Yap Yeow Chern was at a German Small/Medium Enterprise or Mittelstand in Munich. While there, he learnt how German business associations, companies, and institutes of higher learning come together to form a tightly knit ecosystem of training and job-matching. Yeow Chern is now back in Singapore for the local component of his attachment, and we look forward to hearing more about his learning experience.
Forging deeper and more extensive partnerships with our stakeholders
15. As you can see from the examples I have cited, we are working on ensuring that our leaders continue to learn from diverse areas. But this alone will not throw up all the answers to the challenges we will face. This is where our stakeholders and the people we serve can help contribute to create better outcomes. Our leaders must help their teams and agencies forge these partnerships with greater depth. Let me share an example of our efforts to partner stakeholders.
16. The Enabling Village at Lengkok Bahru is an inclusive community space where new opportunities are created for persons with disabilities. It was a joint SG Enable and MSF effort, co-funded by the government, foundations and corporates, that took the spirit of partnership very seriously right from the start. Beyond funding, corporates offered their industry expertise to co-create programmes, and a number of social enterprises and companies have set up shop at the Village to train and hire persons with disabilities. Residents nearby are part of the community and not forgotten – the gym is open to seniors from the nearby activity centres. Students from nearby schools are volunteering at the Village too. With such an extensive list of stakeholders, strong leadership is needed to look after their interests, to find new norms for working together, and to ensure that services were delivered seamlessly.
17. The Enabling Village is an inspiring example of deep partnerships united through strong leadership, united by a common cause. We are familiar with the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. In our case, the Enabling Village is a clear demonstration of how a community can come together to raise the level of services to the disabled, and also to serve residents in the area.
18. Working in close partnership with stakeholders may be messy and perhaps appear less efficient. But the outcomes are more robust and the people we serve are much more engaged. These are trade-offs that we have to make if we truly want to co-create a better future with our citizens.
Envisioning our future together
19. I have spoken about building a diverse leadership corps and partnership with stakeholders. Let me now touch on why it is our responsibility to not just plan for the future, but to lead our officers to envision the future together.
20. The Singapore Public Service is known for its strength in planning for the long term; it is one of our main competitive advantages. In the past 4 years, we have announced ambitious, long-term plans for our ports in Tanjong Pagar, Brani, and Pasir Panjang to be moved to Tuas, and for Paya Lebar Airbase to be moved to Changi East. These plans were first conceived years before they were announced, and it will take more years of planning to bring them to fruition. Today, we are developing such long term plans on a continual basis to prepare the Public Service and Singapore for the future. For a small, open economy and a fast evolving society like Singapore, we do not have the luxury of not thinking of and planning for the future.
21. We have already begun work on the national level to shape Singapore’s future collectively with Singaporeans through SGfuture. We have seen around 6,000 citizens participating in about 100 SGfuture engagement sessions organised by various government agencies, in partnership with VWOs and other organisations on the ground. The intent is for this spirit of open sharing, engagement and participation to become an integral part of the Government’s approach to partnering citizens for the future.
22. Even as we think about and plan for the future of Singapore, it is also vital for us to re-examine how we need to respond as a Public Service. I am pleased to announce that we have launched a similar exercise within the Public Service. The aim is to develop a collective picture of public officers’ aspirations for the Public Service, and draw out how every officer can contribute towards it. We call this “PSfuture” and it is a series of dialogues with an online forum, allowing officers from different agencies to come together and share their views.
23. The PSfuture sessions have seen an exciting start and will culminate in May during Public Service Week. Our officers can look forward to their own PSfuture within their agency, to share their hopes and ideas with their leaders and colleagues.
24. For all of us as members of the leadership corps, we will need to give our officers the opportunity to dream and to innovate, and then to energise them to exercise personal leadership within their spheres of influence to bring it to pass. We must encourage them to never be satisfied with the status quo; to make a difference through what they do.
25. I look forward to hearing our officers’ aspirations, so that together we can help build the future of Singapore.
26. Thank you very much.