Public service must be more responsive to diverse and changing needs: DPM Teo

The public service must be more nimble in responding to Singaporeans' needs, which are becoming more diverse and changing more rapidly, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Friday, May 23, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LUI
The public service must be more nimble in responding to Singaporeans' needs, which are becoming more diverse and changing more rapidly, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Friday, May 23, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LUI

SINGAPORE - The public service must be more nimble in responding to Singaporeans' needs, which are becoming more diverse and changing more rapidly, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Friday.

To do so, public officers and agencies should seek to understand Singaporeans' concerns and interests, and adjust policies and programmes accordingly, he said at the annual Excellence in Public Service award ceremony held at Gardens by the Bay.

For instance, some rules and processes may be outdated or no longer relevant, said Mr Teo, who is the minister-in-charge of the civil service.

He cited the example of camera phones, which used to be disallowed in military camps due to security concerns. As times and technology changed, the Ministry of Defence took on board national servicemen's concerns and allowed camera phones to be used in less sensitive areas.

Mr Teo also highlighted two other areas in which the public service must renew its emphasis on working together in order to serve Singaporeans better.

Agencies have to "see beyond their own mandates" and work more closely together to effectively resolve issues and challenges, which often cut across multiple agencies.

There is also a need to find new areas and ways to tap Singaporeans' ideas and energy, and to "create space" for citizens to take part in developing policies and implementing solutions to issues that matter to them.

As Singaporeans become more educated and diverse, more are stepping forward to contribute their time, ideas and services, said Mr Teo, therefore agencies should work with the public "to help us have a sense of ownership to build our Singapore together".

He held up Mr Lu Juncai of the People's Association as an example of an officer who went beyond beyond the scope of his duties to "extend help with a heart".

Last year, the 30-year-old constituency management executive at Serangoon Community Club got a call from an elderly ex-convict with kidney failure who had not eaten in days, could not find work and was threatening to return to his old habit of stealing.

To help, Mr Lu bought the man a meal, chatted with him to find out more about his situation and got colleagues to hasten his application for financial assistance.

Mr Lu, who has met up with the resident a couple of times since then, said he believes in a "touch and hold" rather than a "touch and go" approach when it comes to interacting with residents.