Friday, May 29, 2015Friday, May 29, 2015

Collaborating to create public value

Published on May 29, 2014 6:25 AM
President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre), flanked by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob (right) and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (left), delivering his address at the opening of the second session of the 12th Parliament on 16 May 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

In his Address to Parliament recently, President Tony Tan Keng Yam noted that demands on amenities, infrastructure and resources would rise as Singapore becomes increasingly complex and diverse. One solution would be to make full use of new technologies to improve lives. "We will make Singapore a Smart Nation," he declared, mentioning more responsive public services as another way to realise that vision.

In the same vein, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has called on civil servants to be swift and nimble in responding to citizens' needs. The urgency of the task was underscored by the reminder coming from the Minister in charge of the Civil Service.

The two tests for the civil service at a transitional time for Singapore lie in the areas of methods and mindsets. On the first front, officers who work with one another across agencies can draw on an array of resources to deliver first-rate service. This way of doing things is important especially as social policies get increasingly complex to answer to the needs of a diversified population. Unlike the time when a single policy could address the interests of a large number of Singaporeans, the fragmentation of interests today demands that public service officers expand their resource base to serve citizens.

The second test relates to mindsets. While work tends be defined by routines, responsibilities and outcomes, what civil servants do has an added dimension - they play an irreplaceable, everyday role in mediating between state and society. Unlike work in a market-driven organisation which aims to primarily serve its customers, tasks in the civil service are directed at citizens.

Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!