Committee of Supply debate: Prime Minister's Office

Ministers defend public servants

Officers from Traffic Community Policing, a community policing unit, meeting a resident at a community care centre in Toa Payoh North last year. DPM Teo Chee Hean said there are many examples of public officers who go the extra mile to help those wit
Officers from Traffic Community Policing, a community policing unit, meeting a resident at a community care centre in Toa Payoh North last year. DPM Teo Chee Hean said there are many examples of public officers who go the extra mile to help those with particular needs or are in distress.ST FILE PHOTO
DPM TEO CHEE HEAN
DPM TEO CHEE HEAN.ST FILE PHOTO

Three ministers came to the defence of public servants yesterday, a day after some MPs chided officers for not being as compassionate as they could have been in some scenarios.

Public officers work tirelessly to serve and care deeply about helping those in need, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee said. "There are many examples of exemplary public officers who go the extra mile to help those with particular needs or are in distress," said Mr Teo, the minister-in-charge of the civil service.

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam later wrote a Facebook note to Home Team officers to acknowledge the long hours they worked, sacrifices they made, and how they often went beyond the call of duty.

On Wednesday, Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin said more could be done for the working poor, while Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) said he was concerned that the public service may lack a heart in its pursuit of efficiency.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) made a similar point that public servants can guard their turf too jealously to the detriment of Singaporeans.

Mr Teo acknowledged that no system is perfect and the public service constantly strives to do better. But he added: "While our public officers at all levels work quietly and tirelessly and do not seek praise, a little encouragement does help."

A LITTLE ENCOURAGEMENT HELPS

While our public officers at all levels work quietly and tirelessly and do not seek praise, a little encouragement does help.

DPM TEO CHEE HEAN

He said: "I hope that Members will rise, from time to time... in this House to also offer encouragement for the good work of the many public officers who have worked hard and gone the extra mile to serve Singaporeans."

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee said some people might get the wrong impression that the public service had lost its heart, based on Ms Kuik's speech.

Replying, Ms Kuik said she did not believe that the public service had lost its heart.

"I know of many deeply compassionate civil servants, especially those who work in rental housing, who go out on a limb to make things work out for the needy," she added.

She also reiterated that the anecdote she had cited of a single mother living in a rental flat, facing financial difficulties while bringing up her children, was not a real-life example, but "a composite of a few stories of single-parent households".

Ms Kuik also made the point that public officers as well as MPs and members of the public themselves have a role to play, a point that Mr Teo later agreed with.

On Facebook, Mr Shanmugam said generalisations, from a few incidents, will not be accurate.

He added that the MPs had pointed out the good work that civil servants do, and wanted to highlight some areas where they felt things could be improved.

Ending his post, he said: "Keep up your good work, and continue to serve Singapore with your heart."

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'Ministers defend public servants'. Print Edition | Subscribe