Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service at Committee of Supply 2021

26 February 2021

Mr Speaker Sir, 

1 Let me on behalf of the Prime Minister address the cut from Mr Murali on the CPIB. First, let me thank Mr Murali for recognising the efforts of CPIB in keeping corruption at bay. Corruption is under control in Singapore but we must never be complacent. 

2 The findings from CPIB’s 2020 Public Perception Survey saw strong public confidence in our national anti-corruption efforts, with the following cited as the top three success factors contributing to the low corruption rate in Singapore:

  • First, the political determination to keep corruption at bay;
  • Second, the heavy punishments; and
  • Third, the anti-corruption laws that are effective.

3 The Prevention of Corruption Act has served Singapore well and remains an effective instrument. The review of this Act by CPIB is underway. CPIB has been working in consultation with AGC on a comprehensive list of provisions for the review, some of which included the disgorgement of corrupt benefits from perpetrators and strengthening the protection of informers’ identity. CPIB will provide more information on the review when it is ready, together with AGC. 

4 But having said that, Mr Speaker Sir, I think I would like to emphasise one particular point that has come out from the various threads. And that is our reputation as a clean and corruption-free country. It is hard won and not something that we take for granted. 

5 Looking at our history, we know that such things may happen now and then, involving all strata of society. But regardless of who is involved, which organisation is involved, nobody will be above the law. 

6 CPIB, together with the rest of the enforcement agencies, will get to the bottom of each and every case because the reputation of Singapore, the kind of values that we exhibit, must be above all other considerations. So it is a hard-fought reputation, it is hard-won, but we must never be complacent. Because it is a job that will never be done and we must never let our guard down.

7 Next, I will next address the cuts from Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Melvin Yong on the Public Service’s efforts to enhance employability, employment practices and build capabilities. 

8 Mr Patrick Tay asked how the Public Service has helped Singaporeans impacted by the pandemic. We have worked with unions and other partners to place some 21,000 local workers so far in short-term and long-term jobs and traineeships across the public sector. They came from all age groups, including mature workers, and we remain committed to supporting the needs of workers through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills effort. 

9 But we are clear that in the longer term, with an ageing and shrinking local workforce, we must help our people work longer, with new capabilities. Therefore, the Public Service will raise its retirement and re-employment ages to 63 and 68 respectively from 1 Jul 2021, one year ahead of the national schedule, as earlier committed. 

10 Mr Melvin Yong spoke about supporting public officers’ lifelong employability, through good workforce and workplace practices. We agree. Key to this is re-skilling our officers to continually upgrade their skillsets to keep up with the new job demands. Since 2019, we have worked with the unions to upskill thousands of officers in areas such as basic digital literacy, data analytics, and adapting to career and work-life transitions. 

11 We are also developing public officers through job rotations and attachments to the private and people sectors. Officers learn best practices to bring back to the public sector. So far, we have worked with over 50 partners to attach over 90 officers from more than 30 agencies to such organisations and we will continue to expand this scheme further. Mid-career hires into the Civil Service also accounted for over 45% of all hires in the past five years. We welcome more mid-career hires to join us and contribute their skillsets and experiences to the public sector work. 

12 We are implementing progressive workplace practices to build a more collaborative and caring Public Service. We have implemented flexible work arrangements, like enabling more officers to adopt hybrid work arrangements. We are doing more to promote workplace health and mental wellness. For instance, we are starting a Service-wide programme to train mental wellness ambassadors to provide peer support and care for co-workers.

13 We are also making concerted efforts to strengthen the Public Service’s capability to serve Singapore. We have been investing in technology as a key driver of Public Sector Transformation. Many of our COVID responses were underpinned by technology, like A*STAR and TTSH’s Fortitude test-kit, and HTX’s autonomous robot MATAR deployed to patrol dormitories. 

14 We are leveraging technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) for policymaking, service delivery and operations. The MSO One Service App uses AI-enabled routing of residents’ feedback. Public officers working in science, technology and engineering roles will be developed in niche areas like power engineering, modelling and simulation. We welcome more aspiring scientists and engineers into the Public Service. 

15 And so, Mr Speaker Sir, the Public Service will continue to transform ourselves and continue to develop our workforce to prepare our people for a longer career within the Public Service. At the same time, we will increase the porosity between the Public Service and the private and people sectors, so that we can gather experiences from all across the nation for the good of our country. Thank you.