Speech by Mr Peter Ong at the re‑opening of Civil Service Club @ Changi
President Tony Tan Keng Yam
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean
Colleagues and Friends
Ladies and Gentlemen
How has the Civil Service Club evolved over the years?
1. It is my pleasure to welcome President Tan, DPM Teo Chee Hean and honoured guests to be here today at the Civil Service Club (CSC) at Changi. Formerly known as the Singapore Civil Service Sports Council, CSC was set up in 1971 for the purpose of handling inter-territorial games between the civil servants of Singapore and Malaysia. Since then, the club has evolved itself to provide up-to-date sporting and leisure facilities, while retaining its original intent of promoting fitness, sports and affordable facilities for public officers.
2. After two years of extensive redevelopment, CSC@Changi is now three times larger than its original size, providing a host of quality recreational facilities. The newly-built chalet suites, villas as well as the 5-storey sports complex provide members and their families a home away from home. Almost 20 years after CSC@Changi first opened, we are honoured to have President Tan gracing the reopening today.
3. Some have asked why we are investing in such amenities for our public officers. Institutions are ultimately made up of people. If we want strong institutions, we need to develop and safeguard the well-being of our people. To quote our late Finance Minister Mr Hon Sui Sen during the official opening of the renovated Portsdown clubhouse in 1980 - “There is a need for rest and recreation for members in the Public Service. The pressures upon them have increased tremendously with Singapore’s rapid economic growth and the government’s greater involvement in the economy”. His words are as relevant today, as they were over 30 years ago.
4. Allow me to spend some time now highlighting the challenges that the Public Service and our officers are facing, and how we in turn ensure the well-being of our officers.
Challenges of governance and the shift towards One Trusted Public Service with citizens at the centre
5. We live in a world where change is the only constant. Domestically, our population is growing but ageing, people have aspirations that go beyond material needs, and voices – often amplified by social media – are becoming louder and more diverse. There is increasing pressure on the Public Service to deliver more, to be faster and better. Within the Public Service, we need to think of how we can work more effectively as One Trusted Public Service with Citizens at the Centre, while upholding the highest standards of integrity, service and excellence.
6. First, it entails changing our mind sets in the way we approach our work, to overcome silo mentalities and nurture a One Public Service culture. Secondly, we need to strengthen institutional capabilities to serve Singaporeans better, and this necessarily entails developing our people and ensuring their well-being.
(i) Changing mind sets to build a One Public Service Culture
7. Just about a month ago, during the national mourning week with the passing of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I was humbled and touched as I saw thousands of public officers from various agencies, working together round the clock to ensure that the various aspects of the State Funeral went smoothly. Some officers even went beyond their call of duty to help in distributing umbrellas and water bottles to members of the public who were in the queues waiting to pay their last respects. This is testament to the ability and responsiveness of the Public Service to work together as One.
8. The Municipal Services Office is another apt example of how the Public Service came together to resolve municipal issues from the citizens’ perspectives. The OneService mobile app launched by MSO makes it more convenient for members of the public to send feedback on municipal issues. What is less known to the public, is the behind the scenes work to bring together officers from 8 agencies to understand the citizens’ source of frustrations and redesign systems and processes. We must press on to nurture this culture of One Public Service, to go beyond working in silos to harnessing the power of collaboration, in order to deliver more citizen-centric services to Singaporeans.
(ii) Build capabilities as One Public Service to serve the needs of Singaporeans
9. Next, on building capabilities – we must continue to build on the institutions that we have inherited from our pioneers to steward the Public Service for future generations.
10. Through the Smart Nation initiative, we aim to be a nation where people lead meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology. Within the government, this journey of building capabilities in data analytics has already begun. For example, patient records across the public hospitals are integrated so that doctors can pull up information on the patient regardless of the patient’s choice of hospital. Platforms such as OneMap, the Government’s one-stop geospatial data sharing platform, enables stakeholders such as citizens, businesses and communities to co-create solutions and achieve better outcomes for Singaporeans. We need to continue to enhance existing capabilities and build new ones that will enable the Public Service to innovate and deliver services effectively.
As we work hard to tackle the challenges, we need to look after our officers’ well-being
11. While the Public Service strives to work in a more integrated and citizen-centric manner, we also need to manage ever-increasing expectations. In some instances, we need to support our officers to remain bold and fair in delivering services, and ensure that no one gets short-changed because of undue attention given to the demands of a few.
12. Additionally, to protect our officers from abusive behaviour from members of the public, the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 has been introduced and would be extended to cover officers who are not classified as civil servants but deliver essential services to the public. These include public healthcare and public transport workers.
13. Leaders at all levels play a key role in encouraging their officers to motivate and to re-affirm officers’ belief that the work they do, no matter how small, would make a difference to Singapore and Singaporeans.
What we have been doing for public officers
14. In order for the Public Service to deliver its best for Singaporeans, we need to ensure the well-being of our people. Most recently in January 2015, we enhanced the medical benefit of officers on the Medisave-cum-Subsidised Outpatient Scheme. Officers now receive 2% Medisave contribution, up from 1%, over and above their statutory Medisave contribution.
15. Beyond medical benefits, the Public Service also formalised our re-employment policy from 1 January 2015 to re-employ eligible public officers after they turn 65, up to the age of 67, ahead of nationwide implementation. Re-employment allows the Public Service to continue tapping on our officers’ wealth of knowledge to ensure that age will not be an impediment to their willingness and ability to contribute back to our society.
16. To develop our people, one key way is to provide them with ample training opportunities to acquire deeper skills which would prepare them to take on larger responsibilities. One officer who has benefitted from deeper skills training is Mr Lim Teck Seng, an operations support officer at Beatty Secondary School. He has broadened his professional skillset through learning programmes in communications, quality service and info-comm technology. In recognition of his commitment to doing the best possible job, Mr Lim was appointed a team leader and given a broader supervisory role.
17. Beyond providing modern facilities for enjoyment, the Club plays a crucial role in fostering a One Public Service identity, by establishing itself as a “unique home” for public officers to take respite. Given the size and diversity of the Public Service, the CSC clubhouses are important nodes and spaces for public officers across various agencies and their families to interact in an informal setting outside of work. I am reminded of something Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said in 1980 about working as a team - “We can build up this team spirit, this esprit de corps, where every individual gives of his best for the team, for the nation, to achieve its maximum. And the team, the nation, in turn, takes care of the individual, fairly and equitably. The art of government is the art of building up team spirit.” In the next chapter of the Club, I look forward to seeing how we can facilitate and enable public officers to bond and build strong relationships as One Public Service family, as we design activities and services for this purpose.
18. Thank you all for your presence at today’s reopening and I wish you all a good day ahead as you soak in Changi’s charms and explore the rest of the Clubhouse’s offerings.