Trust in public service crucial to success of govt policies: PM Lee
- POSTED: 30 Sep 2013 12:19
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Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has emphasised that a major determinant of success in implementing government policies that improve the lives of people is trust in the government, and in particular, the public service.
SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has emphasised that a major determinant of success in implementing government policies that improve the lives of people is trust in the government, and in particular, the public service.
He said it is important that Singaporeans trust that the government understands their needs, is committed to the people, and will remain a steward of the public good.
One way the public service can strengthen this trust is to work together as one, with Singaporeans at the centre, and upholding the highest standards of integrity.
He said: "Ultimately, integrity is not about systems and processes but values. The government must have a culture that doesn't tolerate any wrongdoing or dishonesty and the public officers must have the right values -- service, integrity, excellence -- and each officer and the service as a whole must take pride in being clean, incorrupt.
"This is your command responsibility, you cannot devolve it to your subordinates, you cannot leave it to your procurement or financial officers. You are the boss, you are in charge."
Mr Lee was speaking at the Public Service Leadership Advance, a planning seminar for public sector leaders on Monday morning.
He explained that the public service must operate as an integrated whole, fully committed to improving the lives of Singaporeans, and policies must keep up with the changing aspirations and needs of the people.
Also important, said Mr Lee, is that public service organisations provide Singaporeans with a seamless service. He cautioned that it would be frustrating for the public to deal with multiple agencies and conflicting policies.
He cited an example of how a man who had called the National Environment Agency about a snake spotted near the Tanglin International Centre was asked several questions by the NEA officer before action was taken.
The government must also be customer-oriented and understand the realities on the ground.
In the second quarter of this year, the government as a whole received 1.6 million emails, phone calls and letters - that's one in every five seconds.
Mr Lee also stressed that critical to maintaining public trust is upholding the highest standards of integrity -- something which has been painstakingly built up over many years.
Mr Lee said because there is integrity, businesses can compete fairly instead of relying on improper influence. And because there is integrity, public officers can be given the discretion to exercise judgement when managing multi-million dollar projects.
Singaporeans also know that they can make it if they work hard, regardless of family backgrounds or personal connections.
Thus, former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had on his 90th birthday, wished that the Singapore government continues to be clean and honest, and to uphold the highest moral standards.
The Prime Minister emphasised that one reason why Singapore has been able to maintain a clean system is that it pays public servants properly in line with the quality of the officers and the value of their contributions. He stressed that this policy will continue.
In return he said, Singapore insists on the high standards of performance and integrity, and if an officer is discovered to have been dishonest, he will be punished to the full extent of the law.
Mr Lee said this principle will be maintained even when it may be embarrassing to the government.
He said it is becoming more important than ever to maintain a clean system as the public service is now bigger and more complex -- it handles more transactions with bigger sums, and its span of control is now wider.
Mr Lee acknowledged that the past year has seen a string of high-profile cases involving public officers, including some senior ones in sex for favours scandals, procurement lapses and fraud cases.
He noted that these incidents had raised questions of whether there was something fundamentally wrong with the public service.
The Prime Minister once again assured Singaporeans that the overall trend has not worsened, but every case is one too many.
He said beyond these individual cases, the public service must strengthen its systems to uphold reputation for integrity and incorruptibility, and dispel any doubts that standards have fallen.
Head of Civil Service, Peter Ong, said Mr Lee's presence at the annual seminar was a clear demonstration of the type of leadership he is encouraging public sector leaders to show - that is to lead by example and model the right values for staff.
In a statement to the media, Mr Ong said leaders make a big difference in ensuring that the Public Service and its officers have the right values and ethos, and that the systems and processes are rigorous to protect integrity and to maintain trust in the Service.
Mr Ong noted that Mr Lee had said he's proud of the Public Service and is confident that its officers can navigate the new way forward successfully.
He said the public sector leaders and staff will continue to do their utmost to always serve in the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans.