29 July 2022 Speeches

Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, at the Public Sector Transformation Awards Ceremony 2022

Creating Value, Caring for the Community and Environment, and Continuous Learning

1. Good afternoon to all our fellow public officers. Earlier this month, at the One Public Service Observance Ceremony (OPSOC), I spoke about:

a. Our challenges as a nation - the uncertainty, the complexity, and the disruptions that we can expect in the next decades. 

b. I also mentioned how we must build the right culture in the Public Service to confront these challenges – one that values Agility, Collaboration, and Lifelong Learning. 

2. I am pleased to be gathered with all of you once again in person to celebrate the good work of the 67 award winners. They have demonstrated the traits that we need to build as our culture in the Public Service. 

a. We have officers who have shown agility and initiative to deliver excellence in their daily work and embodied the spirit of lifelong learning
b. We have teams across agencies that have collaborated well with our internal and external stakeholders to deliver innovative solutions. 
c. We celebrate the agencies that have worked closely together with our community partners and businesses and gone the extra mile to benefit our citizens. 
d. In their own ways, each and every one of them have contributed to a strong Public Service that is ready to tackle the challenges together with our people and our nation.

3. Well done to all the award recipients. You deserve these awards, which also serve as positive reminders to all of us on what it means to work in the Public Service and how we need to be always ready for the future.

Meaning of the Public Service

4. Now, if we take a pause and I were to ask all of you – What made you, or what made us, join the Public Service? What would be your answer? 

a. Not so long ago, I asked this question to a new officer who made a mid-career switch to join the Public Service.
b. Her answer is one that I think many of you would resonate with – to make a difference in the lives of our people and for our country to have a brighter future.

5. But what does this really mean? As I looked through some of the stories on our award recipients, I think we can all be deeply inspired by what our officers can achieve in the Public Service:

a. Creating Value for Citizens and Businesses;
b. Caring for the Community and the Environment; and
c. Continuous Learning.

Creating Value for Citizens and Businesses

6. Let me start with the first point – Creating Value for Citizens and Businesses. Through my interactions with our public officers, officers often share that what motivates them to keep going, even when they are tired, is when they know they are making a difference. Making a difference to our nation, touching the lives of the citizens they serve, the students they teach, and even fellow public officers who benefit from what they do in their daily work. 

7. But creating value is not easy, it requires all of us to:

a. First, place citizens and businesses at the core of our work; that their interests always come before ours;
b. Second, it requires us to understand our stakeholders deeply so that we can collaborate with them and understand how we can harness their collective energies for us to achieve something together; and
c. Last but not least, act in an agile and innovative manner so we can deliver accessible, responsive and transparent services to our people. This is what our citizens expect us as public officers.

8. An example of this is One Client View, in short, OneCV. 

a. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and involving 16 other agencies such as the Government Technology Agency (GovTech), Housing Development Board (HDB), Ministry of Health (MOH), Workforce Singapore (WSG) and more, OneCV allows frontline officers to retrieve information on citizens that they are assisting quickly.
b. In a few clicks, they are able to have a comprehensive view of the citizen’s information, promptly assess what assistance to render to the citizen, and whether the citizen requires further support from other agencies. This is beyond the ‘no wrong door’ policy. In fact, it is a one-stop help that we are trying to provide for our citizens. For example, if the Social Service Officer notices that a citizen applying for ComCare also has rental flat arrears, the officer can refer the citizen to HDB for rental housing subsidy.
c. With OneCV, we ease the administrative burden for citizens in need because they need not repeat their circumstances, nor submit supporting documents when applying for assistance from different agencies. Instead, they can focus on improving their circumstances with the help that is available collectively.
d. Congratulations to OneCV for winning the One Public Service award this year.

9. We need more projects like these, where different parts of the Public Service band together with the mission of serving citizens and businesses in mind, to redefine the way we deliver personalised services to our citizens. Such collaboration and agility in pulling resources together help us tackle many more challenges in the complex world that we live in. 

Caring for the community and the environment

10. Next, we talk about caring for our community and the environment. We need a dynamic Public Service where officers proactively pursue their interests, passions, and strengths. For example:

a. We have officers who care deeply about nurturing the next generation or enjoy working with youths.
b. We have officers who care about seniors and have brilliant ideas to make our environment more senior-friendly. 
c. We also have officers who care passionately about championing sustainability in Singapore. 

11. This brings us to our next point on caring for the community. The Public Service supports officers in the issues they care about and provide them with the platform and resources to contribute to these diverse causes.

12. Take Lina from Nanyang Polytechnic. As an educator and a specialist in food technology, Lina’s interest is in working with students and stakeholders to develop solutions to address food waste issues. With the ageing population in Singapore, Lina is also keen to meet the emerging demand for elderly-friendly food. 

a. Hence, when Lina observed a lack of visually appetising food with optimal nutrients for elderly with swallowing difficulties, she was motivated to think of creative solutions. Lina proactively co-created nutritious and appealing food products with local companies and urban fish farmers. These products include nutrients fortified soft-texture Teochew fishcake and Ondeh-Ondeh ice-cream. 
b. Lina also engaged Small and Medium Enterprises with limited Research and Design capabilities, and empowers her students to come up with ideas to pitch to these companies. Some of these ideas eventually transformed into industry projects. Good job to Lina and her students! Your care for the elderly and initiative have made a difference!

13. We also have officers who are passionate in green efforts and have pushed for initiatives to create enjoyable green spaces for the public. Hengki and his colleagues from PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and National Parks Board (NParks) revamped the Rail Corridor (South) by enhancing the biodiversity in the area, and adjusting the terrain to prevent stagnation of water on the trail, while maintaining the Rail Corridor’s rustic and natural look. The greening efforts have paid off with the presence of various wildlife around the area and increased user accessibility and experience at the Rail Corridor. I am excited to visit the Rail Corridor soon to enjoy the nature, thanks to Hengki and team! 

14. We have many officers like Hengki and Lina who are deeply passionate about issues that concern Singapore and Singaporeans. The Public Service is where we support our officers in proactively pushing for ground-up initiatives, to make Singapore a better place to work, play and live in. 

Continuous Learning and Exploration

15. Last but not least, while we pour our hearts out to serve our country and the people, we also want officers to grow, to build a better public service and to strive for excellence as we serve the public. We need to acquire new skills, new competencies from new experiences. Beyond just progressing vertically by taking on more senior positions, we are offering more opportunities for officers to try out different roles, so you can continuously learn and expand your experiences and perspectives.

16. One officer who benefited from this is Balasubramanian s/o Tharmalinggam from the State Courts. He continuously upskilled while working in the Public Service, and this helped him rise through the ranks.

a. Bala joined the Service as a Corporate Support Officer in 1999 and held different roles in Finance before posting to the Small Claims Tribunal in 2015. 
b. Then, Bala decided to pursue the part-time Juris Doctor programme in SUSS to equip himself with skills to deal with cases he handles in the Small Claims Tribunal. 
c. The programme helped Bala gain the competencies he needed for both his role as an Assistant Registrar in the Small Claims Tribunal, and future roles that he aspires to move into. 
d. Today, Bala is a Senior Assistant Director who takes on a broad job scope including overseeing registry operations in the Small Claims Tribunal, doing legislative and policy reviews, and even mentoring registry executives in responding to challenging litigants-in-person.

17. We also have officers like Iman, who equipped herself with new skills along different points of her career, which enabled her to pivot into multiple job roles. Iman’s first job was in the actuarial profession, but she decided to join Temasek Polytechnic to teach mathematics in 2015. To deepen her pedagogical skills, she pursued higher education teacher training. When she was redeployed to teach data analytics in 2012, she did not waver, but proactively took up online courses to pick up data analytics. Her willingness to learn, has benefitted over 1000 learners who attended her courses.

18. Both Bala and Iman are receiving the Exemplary SkillsFuture @ Public Service award today. We have been supporting officers like Bala and Iman in their endeavour to learn and explore opportunities in the Public Service, and will continue to do so and do more. 

a. Soon, officers can use up to 40 working hours a year to participate in self-initiated developmental activities outside of the Public Service. 
b. This includes job-shadowing, taking up research projects with educational institutions, volunteering with the people, private sector and international organisations. 

19. The aim is for us to continuously enrich our experiences and to know our stakeholders deeply, so that we can be a more effective Public Service serving Singapore and Singaporeans. 

Conclusion

20. Today, we have highlighted just a few examples of exemplary officers. There are many other award recipients who have found meaning in their work in the Public Service. They have motivated others along the way, and will continue to serve and benefit generations of Singaporeans to come. I would like to thank all of you for leading this effort and being an inspiration for all of us. 

21. There are limited awards that we can give out each year. I am sure there are many more of you who have stepped out of your comfort zone and gone the extra mile to make a difference in your area of work. 

a. Battling the Covid-19 has not been an easy journey for everyone. In the past few years, amidst the global uncertainty, economic and climate changes that threaten our already finite resources, and high public expectations of the Government, all of you have stood strong as One Public Service. 
b. This is what makes your ongoing hard work and resilience even more impressive. Not just working on problems today to take care of fellow Singaporeans and Singapore, but also looking out for challenges and opportunities that may emerge. This is what makes the Singapore Public Service stand out. This is the kind of spirit that will allow us to reach even greater heights. 

22. I look forward to working closely with all of you to continue serving Singapore with all our hearts. I am sure that whatever the challenges that may come and confront us, we will not only survive the challenges but thrive amidst the challenges and seize the opportunities of tomorrow. Thank you for being the pride of our public service.