SINGAPORE - Members of Parliament and public officers play complementary roles and will not always see issues from the same perspective, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Sunday (Feb 4).
But it would be improper for them to "get back at" each other because of disagreements over work, and any instances of this will be investigated, he added.
His comments in a statement sent to the press followed a Channel NewsAsia interview with Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah in which she had described her sometimes prickly relationship with civil servants.
In the wide-ranging interview published online, which covered her childhood, views on engineering and work as an MP, Ms Lee said her friends had advised her against being too pushy.
"I even have friends who tell me, 'Bee Wah, when you step down, then you will know, this civil servant will get back at you'. So be it. If I'm afraid, then there's nothing much that I can do, right? So if you really want to serve, don't be worried," she was quoted as saying.
DPM Teo, who is Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, said: "The Government expects public officers and MPs alike to conduct themselves in a proper manner. One can disagree while respecting the integrity and point of view of the other party.
"It would be improper for either MPs or public officers to 'get back at' each other because of disagreements over work. If anyone knows of either public officers or MPs using their position or authority to act in this improper way, he or she should raise the matter with me with the facts, and I will have it investigated."
While MPs and public officers will often encounter competing demands and priorities, said DPM Teo, these different perspectives "may well have valid justifications - the needs of residents, resource or site constraints, or national priorities and policy".
Ms Lee had said in the interview that while government policies may make sense on paper, problems may arise when they are being implemented.
She said civil servants needed to be on the ground to understand the issues, and added: "Some do. Some still don't. They shouldn't just give 'cut and paste' answers to residents." She cited the car-lite push as an example of a policy that was too hasty, saying that Singapore does not have the right infrastructure yet to support the move.
Pointing to Ms Lee's zeal for serving Singaporeans, DPM Teo said the vast majority of public officers were similarly passionate, adding that MPs and public officers should resolve differences through reasoned discussion and objective analysis.
He also sought to put things in perspective, saying that, overall, Singapore has an excellent public service and a well-functioning Parliament.
"We should keep it that way, and work to improve on what we have. In their interactions with each other, MPs and public officers should conduct themselves professionally and with mutual respect," he added.
"The public service has a duty to work closely with the elected government as well as with MPs for the good of Singapore and Singaporeans. Where the public service or individual public officers have fallen short, the public service will strive to improve and serve Singaporeans better."