Debate on ministries' budgets: Prime Minister's Office

Parliament: Paper qualifications not the only criterion for public service

Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students celebrating at their graduation ceremony. Since 2015, the public service has been moving towards single salary schemes for officers, whether they are ITE or university graduates.
Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students celebrating at their graduation ceremony. Since 2015, the public service has been moving towards single salary schemes for officers, whether they are ITE or university graduates.ST FILE PHOTO

Officers must have initiative, ability to work well with others, says Chan Chun Sing

Educational qualifications remain a "valid proxy" for the skills of potential public servants and they will not be disregarded, Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, said yesterday.

But such qualifications are not sufficient, added Mr Chan, who is also the Minister for Trade and Industry, during the debate on the budget for the Prime Minister's Office.

Stressing the importance of diversity in the service, he said: " Going forward, when our public service selects future leadership teams, we will increasingly look for a combination of operations, communications, mobilisation and international exposure, beyond pure policy-making skills."

He added: "A more diverse public service is a more resilient public service for the uncertainties ahead."

Besides intellect, the Government wants officers with initiative and creative ideas, and who can work well with others, he said. In areas like information and communications technology, the public service will select recruits based on their technical skills, he added.

Since 2015, the service has been moving towards single salary schemes for officers, whether they are Institute of Technical Education or university graduates, he said. Almost all the 50-something public sector agencies are on a single scheme, apart from officers who are required to have particular qualifications, such as doctors and engineers.

Besides intellect, the Government wants officers with initiative and creative ideas, and who can work well with others,

Mr Chan said. In areas like information and communications technology, the public service will select recruits based on their technical skills, he added.

 
 
 

He was responding to nine MPs who offered ideas on how to improve the civil service.

Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang), Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Nominated MP Anthea Ong asked how the public service was helping its officers adopt new mindsets and skills to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world and with higher expectations from citizens.

Mr Chan said that, among other things, they might get a better understanding of how policies are put in place by interacting with people more often. He highlighted Public Service Cares, a new initiative to be implemented this year to encourage all officers to volunteer and learn how to communicate better with Singaporeans.

More public officers will get the chance to work in the private sector for a period of time, as part of the goal to achieve "greater porosity and two-way flow of talents", he said. He noted that the inaugural Service Delivery Talent Attachment Programme last year saw 10 officers sent on work attachments to DBS, Grab and Singtel.

The public service is also aiming for 100 per cent digital literacy, he added.

In addition, the public service is rethinking how it can deliver services, not just efficiently, but also in ways that are more intuitive and convenient for people, he said.

Hence, it is redesigning more services around key moments, like parenting a schoolgoing child or entering one's silver years. It will also reorganise itself to be more citizen-centric instead of agency-centric.

For example, Singaporeans who approach any counter at the Public Service Centre in Our Tampines Hub can ask any staff member for help for some 70 services across six agencies, instead of having to wait for the "right" counter to become available, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'Paper qualifications not the only criterion for public service '. Print Edition | Subscribe