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15 former SAF officers holding senior leadership roles in public service: Chan Chun Sing

15 former SAF officers holding senior leadership roles in public service: Chan Chun Sing
Inspector General Brigadier-General Tan Chee Wee speaking to media in 2017. Mr Tan will take over as ECDA CEO in December. (Photo: Jeremy Long) ​​​​​​​

SINGAPORE: There are 15 former Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers holding senior leadership positions in the public service as of Sep 24 this year, said Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Oct 4).

These roles include permanent secretaries, deputy secretaries and chief executives, said Mr Chan, adding that the 15 former SAF officers form about 10 per cent of these appointments.

“Looking at the figures another way, of the SAF personnel holding the rank of Colonel or ME7 (Military Expert 7) and above who retired between 2010 and now, about 7 per cent went on to assume senior public service appointments,” he added.

Mr Chan said this in a written answer to a parliamentary question filed by MP Gerald Giam (WP-Aljunied), who asked how many retired SAF officers with the rank of Colonel or ME7 and above have held senior positions in public sector organisations.

He had also asked how the Public Service Division (PSD) determines which officers have “sufficient competencies to lead these organisations despite not having had civilian work experience”.

He also wanted to know whether PSD required these officers to spend "several years" building up sectoral knowledge and skills before taking the helm.

Mr Chan said that the public service adopts the principle of finding the “best available person for the job” in recruiting for senior appointments.

He added that agencies "typically consider" internal candidates, the wider public service that includes the uniformed services, and "where relevant", the private sector.

For former uniformed service officers, agencies will take “a considered view” of the officer’s career experience and competencies, together with other candidates, before deciding on the best person for the senior role, said Mr Chan, who is also Education Minister.

He said that candidates from uniformed services would have been in roles that helped develop “a range of competencies”, such as strategic leadership, policy formulation, the running of large-scale operations and technology management.

"They also have valuable experience in working with, understanding, motivating, and winning the confidence of full-time and operationally ready national servicemen who are Singaporeans from all walks of life," added Mr Chan.

Officers who demonstrate the capacity to hold top leadership roles are “tested and prepared through challenging postings and leadership programmes”, he said.

They also get opportunities “to develop whole-of-government perspectives” through inter-agency projects, board directorships and external postings to the public service during their military careers, he added.

“These experiences prepare the officers to assume senior appointments in the military, and also provide them with the background and perspective to take on senior leadership positions in the wider public service, if called upon and found suitable,” said Mr Chan.

"Sector-specific knowledge and skills are part of the considerations, but not the only consideration.

"Public service leadership teams are expected to comprise leaders who bring diverse experiences to the table and operate cohesively as a team, tapping on each other’s skills and experiences."


Separately, MP He Ting Ru (WP-Sengkang) asked about the appointment of former SAF Brigadier-General Tan Chee Wee as chief executive officer of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

He was appointed CEO-designate of ECDA on Sep 1, and will take over from Ms Jamie Ang as CEO on Dec 15.

Ms He asked how many candidates were considered for the role, what factors and qualifications were considered, and why the decision was made to appoint a CEO “with no early childhood or educational experience”.

In a written response, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said “several qualified candidates” had been considered, but Mr Tan was assessed to be the "most suitable".

“Mr Tan is not unfamiliar with the social sector as he had previously served in the then-Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports from 2006 to 2008, where he supervised the macro-planning of government-funded social services and development of the social service sector, building up capabilities and human resources,” added Mr Masagos.

Source: CNA/cl


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