Changes in permanent secretary appointments

Nine top civil servants to take on more responsibilities or change portfolios; veteran to retire next month

Nine top civil servants will take on more responsibilities or change portfolios from May 1, while a veteran of nearly four decades will retire.

The Public Service Division (PSD) yesterday announced changes to permanent secretary posts in eight ministries, in one of the most extensive reshuffles in recent years.

Permanent secretaries are appointed by the president to head a ministry and take charge of implementing policies and programmes under the direction of the minister.

The moves are the first since last September's general election and the appointment of a new Cabinet in which there were ministerial changes at nine of the 15 ministries.

Political observer Eugene Tan said the changes show that issues are increasingly complex or multi-disciplinary in nature: "There is a need to expose this core group to different ministries and new challenges. That could result in new ideas and innovative inputs."

The moves also take effect as Mr Benny Lim 59, the Permanent Secretary for National Development, retires on April 30, after a 37-year public service career.

BROADER PERSPECTIVES

There is a need to expose this core group of civil servants to different ministries and new challenges. That could result in new ideas and innovative inputs.

POLITICAL OBSERVER EUGENE TAN, on the reshuffle of permanent secretaries

Mr Lim is also Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and for National Security and Intelligence Coordination.

The PSD credited him with transforming the Home Affairs Ministry during his tenure from 2004 to 2011 to "deal with the safety, security and terrorist challenges confronting Singapore in a post-9/11 world".

It also announced a new permanent secretary: Media Development Authority (MDA) chief executive Gabriel Lim, 40, who will be Second Permanent Secretary for Communications and Information from May 1.

From April 1, he will also be the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's (IDA) co-managing director (designate), and become co-managing director from May 27.

The PSD said this is to prepare for the establishment of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) - formed by merging the IDA and MDA - later this year.

Mr Benny Lim's post at National Development will be filled by Mrs Ow Foong Pheng, 52, who is at Trade and Industry. She will also be in charge of the Municipal Services Office (MSO), tasked to improve coordination across public agencies.

Mr Loh Khum Yean, 51, Permanent Secretary for Manpower, will take over at Trade and Industry.

Mr Aubeck Kam, 45, Permanent Secretary for Communications and Information, will also take on the Manpower role from Mr Loh.

Meanwhile, civil service head Peter Ong, 54, will be the Permanent Secretary for Strategy in the PMO. The new role follows the creation of a strategy group in the PMO last July to support the Prime Minister and Cabinet in "establishing priorities and strengthening strategic alignment across Government".

Mr Ong will relinquish two appointments - Permanent Secretary for Special Duties in the PMO, and in the Finance Ministry.

Both of these will be taken on by Mrs Tan Ching Yee, 51, who is at the Health Ministry. She will be succeeded there by Mr Chan Heng Kee, 47, who is now at the Social and Family Development Ministry .

Taking over from Mr Chan is Mr Chew Hock Yong, 51, who is Second Permanent Secretary for National Development, and Permanent Secretary in Charge of the MSO.

Mr Leo Yip, 52, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, will have additional roles as Permanent Secretary in the PMO, and for National Security and Intelligence Coordination.

Civil Service College Fellow and governance expert Neo Boon Siong said the changes enable public service leaders to have a broader perspective across ministries so that a whole-of-government approach may be taken in designing and implementing policies.

To him, the most significant change is the new permanent secretary post for strategy in PMO that is filled by the head of civil service.

"This is a cross-ministry portfolio and aligns the role of the head of the civil service to oversee the overall strategic direction of policy development and implementation as Singapore faces more complex challenges ahead," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Changes in permanent secretary appointments'. Print Edition | Subscribe