PUBLIC SERVICE REFORMS IN SINGAPORE
- Administrative Reforms and Good Governance; Pluralist Democracy and
- The Singapore civil service is one of the most efficient and least
corrupt in the world with some of the highest paid civil servants. The
Singapore Government holds the view that this will eliminate corruption
both at the political and civil service level. This high-wage structure
was introduced in the early to mid 1990s where civil service salaries are
pegged to the private sector.
There are 12 Government Parliamentary Committees (GPCs)
which serve as feedback units to the ministries and which also serve as a
link between the ministries and the public for them to better understand
government policy. An MP who is not the minister of the ministry chairs
- In addition there is a Feedback Unit, chaired by another MP. Each
ministry/department has a quality service manager with a toll-free line
- Many civil service organisations that deal with the public carry out
customer service surveys. One such organisation is the Housing and
Development Board (HDB), which has carried out several such studies. The
HDB caters for the public housing of 80% of the population.
- In terms of administrative reforms, the phases for the past 20 years
could be divided into the following:
- Early 1980s when performance budgeting was introduced;
- Mid 1980s when management accounting and activity-based costing was
- Late 1980s when performance indicators were published in the budget
- Early to mid 1990s when salaries of civil servants were pegged to the
private sector and at the same time doing away with the iron rice bowl
- 1990s when corporatisation started to take place.
- Mid 1990s when PS 21 (Public Service for the 21st Century)
- Sustainable Economic and Social Development
- Singapore has always had balanced budgets except in the 2 recessions in
1985/86 and 1998/99 (deficit S$0.47 billion, 0.3% of GDP) and 1999/2000
(deficit S$5.05 billion, 3.5 % of GDP).
- Budget surpluses averaged
about 6% of GDP from 1991 to 1995, 2% in 1996 and 3% in 1997 (see Figures
1.1 and 1.2).
Figure 1.1: Budget Surplus/Deficit
Budget Surplus/Deficit as % of GDP
- Total expenditure as a % of GDP increased from 13% in 1993 to 20.5% in
1999/2000 (see Figures 1.3 and 1.4).
Figure 1.3: Total Expenditure In S$ million
Total Expenditure as % of GDP
- For the1999/2000 budget, more have been allocated to social and
community service-education, public housing, environment and health
(39.1%)- than economic and infrastructural development (19.2%). Security
accounts for 32.2%. This is illustrated in Table 1.3.
- Besides prudent budgetary policies, Singapore also has a surplus balance
- The Civil Service is very conscious of the fact that it is responsible
for the economic growth of the country. Civil service bonuses in the past
has always been pegged to the performance of the economy.
- Global Trends and Increasing Interdependence
- Singapore is a country with one of the most open trading policies in the
world as evidenced by the fact that it hosted the first World Trade
Conference for the World Trade Organisation. It is a firm believer in open
competition and free trade. Competition is seen even between 2
Government-linked corporations owned by the State.
- It is dependent on the world for the supply of its foodstuff and water
and on entreport trade. It also has one of the largest oil refineries in
the world and oil export is vital to Singapore. Its manufacturing base is
increasingly high-tech and it is the largest makers and exporters of disc
drives. Its Changi Airport is constantly voted as one of the best in the
world and its Port of Singapore Authority one of the busiest. It is also
an international financial centre with excellent infrastructure and
communications facilities. In short, Singapore is so closely linked to the
rest of the world that it is unlikely to survive in isolation.
- In addition, Singapore is a member of ASEAN (Association of South East
Asian Nations) and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation).
- PROGRAMMATIC ISSUES
- There are in total 114,565 members of the civil list, political
appointments and civil service. They work in 14 Ministries. Theses
Ministrires and their activities are outlined below:
- There are 14 ministries:
Ministry of Communications
- The main function of the Ministry of Communications (MinCom) is to ensure
safety and economy in the movement of people and goods, and to develop and
promote Singapore as a modern and major communications centre. MinCom is
staffed by some 157 employees. Its FY1998 budget was $2.17 billion, an
increase of $0.47 billion over FY97, this was primarily due to higher
development expenditure. In FY98, MinCom was awarded a capital grant to the
tune of $1,201,958,900 primarily for the purpose of the development of rail
- MinCom’s total expenditure amounted to $1830.92 million, which was 1.17%
Ministry of Community Development
- The Ministry is committed to foster, with maximum community participation
and through strengthening of families, a cohesive, compassionate and robust
society. The Ministry is manned by 555 employees and had a total expenditure
of $53.2 billion in 1998. Its operating expenditure was a total of $366.2
million. It focused on several programmes, largest of which was The People’s
Association Programme with a share of $150.79 million (41.2%). This was
followed by the Family Support Services Programme with $134.8 million
(36.7%) and the Singapore Sports Council with $36.4 million (9.9%). The
balance of $44.6 million (12.2%) was for Administration, Family Development,
Research and Information Technology, Community Affairs, MUIS, Feedback
Services and Corporate Planning Programme.
- Major projects to be implemented are: Development of the new Boys’
Complex, ($14.41 million); Development of Facilities for the Disabled,
($12.89 million); Community Centre Renovation and Improvement Programme,
($17.35 million); Community Centre Building Programme, ($9.06 million);
Construction of Grassroots Recreation Clubhouse, ($6.3 million); Community
Development Councils, ($6.28 million); Development of Bukit Gombak Sports
Hall, Choa Chu Kang and Jurong West Sports and Recreation Centre, ($51.00
million); and Relocation of Farrer Park Sports Complex Phase I ($13.76
Ministry of Defence
- The Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF) mission is to enhance Singapore’s
peace and security, and should deterrence and diplomacy fail, to secure a
swift and decisive victory over the aggressors. To this end, MINDEF will
improve the manpower resources of the SAF, strengthen its technological
edge, and foster close defence relations with friendly countries in the
region and beyond. MINDEF has a staff of 1525 with total expenditure at
$72.6 billion or about 4.62% of GDP, which accounts for the largest portion
of the overall government budget. FY98 operating expenditure increased by
$736.65 million or 13.7% over FY97 mainly due to more training, filling of
essential vacancies, and higher operating costs.
- A total sum of $6.39 billion (98.5% of the operating expenditure) goes
towards the Armed Forces. This is an increase of 6.6%. Salaries of civilian
personnel and operating costs of MINDEF HQ account for the remaining 1.5 %.
- One of MINDEF’s main focuses is on the National Defence Programme. The
main functions of this programme are:
- General Administration – The central management and administration of
the Ministry including policy direction by Ministerial offices and support
services such as planning; financial, personnel and logistical
administration; and legal and engineering services.
- Armed Forces – Provision for the Singapore Armed Forces including
full-time national servicemen and operationally ready national servicemen.
- National Day Celebrations – Provision for the National Day
Ministry of Education
- The central focus of the Ministry of Education (MOE) is to develop,
implement and manage a flexible educational system which would bring out
the best in students and develop in them sound moral values and a strong
foundation in the basic skills necessary to earn a living. It is the
largest ministry in terms of manpower, at 30,740. Its total expenditure
stood at $5.73 billion, about 3.6% of GDP. Of the total operating
expenditure of $3.79 billion, 97.4% was used to finance the activities of
the Ministry while the remaining 2.6% was disbursed as transfers, mainly
in the form of bursaries and scholarships for students and subventions to
voluntary welfare organisations.
- There are four main programmes under the MOE:
- General Education Programme – Singapore has a compulsory education
system that provides for every child to complete at least 10 years of formal
school education. The estimated cost to educate a primary school pupil per
annum is $3,415 in 1998 with that for a secondary school pupil at $5,208.
MOE administered and implemented the pastoral care and career guidance and
the specialised programmes in schools and visited at least 90% of the
schools to assess the implementation and effectiveness of these programmes.
- University Programme – Singapore currently has 2 universities,
National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological College (NTU).
A total of $1.01 billion is being provided to the two universities whose
aims are to support Singapore’s social and economic development by
producing graduates with the requisite knowledge and skills for employment
and promoting research and innovation. The enrolment figures of NUS and NTU
in FY98 were 22,847 and 14,139 respectively, which brought the average
annual subsidy to educate a student at NUS to $18,300 and NTU to $15,203.
- Polytechnic Programme – Polytechnics provide industrial and
technical training for employment and further education to students who have
completed their secondary education. The enrolment figure of polytechnics
stood at 49,316 in FY98 with the average subsidy to educate each student
amounting to $9,183 per annum.
- Institute of Technical Education Programme – The ITE aims to
provide opportunities for those who are no longer in the formal education
system to continue with their general education or to acquire basic
vocational skills. The total expenditure in FY98 decreased as a result of
lower operation and capital grants. The number of full-time students and
part-time students for FY98 was at 13,930 and 24,150 respectively. The cost
of subsidy was at $7,690 (full-time) and $377 (part-time).
Ministry of the Environment
- The focus of the Ministry of Environment (ENV) is to strive to provide a
clean living environment and a high standard of environmental public
health for all Singaporeans. Its mission was also to protect the country
against the spread of communicable diseases; and to contribute to the
universal effort of protecting the global environment. It is manned by a
total of 6,715 employees. Total expenditure of ENV in FY98 was $1374
million, an increase of $382 million. The Environmental Health Programme
accounts for the largest share of ENV’s total budget, with an allocation
of $677.7 million (49.3%). This is followed by ENV’s other programmes,
namely the Sewerage Programme with $555.5million (40.4%), Drainage
Programme with $83.5 million (6.1%) and Administration Programme with $45
million (3.3%). The balance of $12.1 million was used for the Pollution
Control and Computer Services Programme.
Ministry of Finance
- The Ministry of Finance (MOF) is committed to:
- Allocate public funds and manpower to public sector programmes and
projects which are in line with national priorities and to undertake them
prudently and efficiently; and
- To plan and formulate national tax and revenue policies and efficiently
administer the machinery for the assessment and collection of taxes,
licence fees and other duties.
- The MOF has a total staff of 1,911. The total expenditure of FY98 was
$714.5 million (excluding Expenses on Investment), an increase of 7.9%.
As a % of GDP, the MOF’s share was 0.5%.
- The allocation of expenditure among the various programmes is as
follows: Revenue Division HQ ($295.8 million or 41.4%), Inland Revenue
Authority of Singapore ($207.4 million or 29.0%), Customs and Excise
($83.7 million or 11.7%), Budget Division HQ ($62.3 million or 8.8%) and
five other programmes accounting for ($64.9 million or 9.1%). The MOF
provided $186.9 million for Expenses on Investments (EOI) in FY98, an
increase of $8.9 million to meet the higher expenses on management fees
and interest charges.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) main concern is to manage
Singapore’s external interests in both the political and economic
fields. The MFA is manned by a staff of 1,153 and with total expenditure
in FY98 at $901.4 million. Operating expenditure of $161.5 million was
divided into 82.8% for running costs and 17.2% for transfers. About
73.9% of the running costs was provided for the management of Singapore’s
foreign relations with other countries, both bilaterally and in regional
and international organisations. This involved monitoring, researching,
evaluating and analysing information and developments as well as
informing and advising Government leaders on events and issues which
will effect Singapore’s political, economic and strategic interests.
Development expenditure for FY98 was $53.2 million, an increase of
18.9%. This is due to the construction of the MFA HQ Building.
Ministry of Health
- The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) mission is to: First, promote good
health and reduce illness; Second, to ensure that Singaporeans have
access to good and affordable health care that is appropriate to needs;
Third, to pursue medical excellence. Total expenditure of the MOH for
FY98 was $1.26 billion, which is an increase of 1.9%. Operating
expenditure accounted for 80.1% of MOH’s FY 98 budget, of which a
major share of 75.5% will go towards the Services Programme. This is
followed by the Public Health Programme which took up 14.9% and the
Administration Programme with 8.7%. The remaining 0.9% was allocated to
the Service Regulation Programme. Development expenditure decreased by
16.2% to $251.1 million. This was largely due to the completion of
Ministry of Home Affairs
- The Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) main duties are to maintain law
and order at all times and co-ordinate civil defence measures in
emergencies. MHA is the second largest ministry after MOE in terms of
manpower with total staff of 19,327. The total expenditure of MHA in
FY98 was $2,029.8 million, an increase of 5.4%. The Police Programme
took up the largest share of MHA’s budget with $889.6 million (43.8%).
This was followed by the Civil Defence Programme at $448.4 million
(22.1%) and the Immigration and Registration Programme with $341.7
million (16.8%). The balance of $350.1 million was divided between four
Ministry of Information and The Arts
- The Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA) focuses on the need to
help inform, educate and entertain, as part of Singapore’s national
goal to make the country a hub city of the world and to build a society
that is economically dynamic, socially cohesive and culturally vibrant.
MITA ran on a budget of $380.7 million, which was an increase of 19.6%.
Of the total expenditure, 51.7% went towards operating expenditure and
48.3% towards development expenditure.
- Of the various programmes under the purview of MITA, The National
Library Board Programme accounted for the largest share, amounting to
$180.5 million (47.4%). This was followed by: Administration Programme
with $82.8 million (21.8%); National Heritage Board Programme with $62.7
million (16.5%). The balance of $54.6 million was taken by the Singapore
Broadcasting Authority Programme, Information Programme and the
Preservation of Monuments Board Programme.
Ministry of Manpower
- The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) concentrates on developing a globally
competitive work force for Singapore’s economic competitiveness
through optimal manpower planning, manpower development with
augmentation of international talent, fostering an efficient labour
market, and creating a safe and harmonious work environment in
partnership with workers and employers. 716 staff man MOM and its total
expenditure was $72 million, which was an increase of 14.5%. Of the
total expenditure, 90.7% was for operating expenditure and 9.3% for
development expenditure. As a % share of GDP, MOM’s remained at 0.05%.
- Out of the programmes under the supervision of MOM, the Work Permit
Regulation Programme took up the largest share of $20.7 million (31.7
%), followed by the Administration Programme accounting for $10.9
million (16.7%) and the Labour Relations Programme with $8.8 million
(13.6%). The balance of $24.8 million was divided between eight other
Ministry of Law
- Ministry of Law’s (MinLaw) duty is to ensure a sound legal
infrastructure as a foundation of our social and economic progress and
to optimise the allocation of Singapore’s land resource to support
economic growth. MinLaw’s total expenditure of FY98 was $524.6
million, a decrease of 10.1%. Of the total expenditure, only 20.2% was
for operating expenditure, while development expenditure accounted for
79.8%. As a percentage of GDP, the Ministry’s share of expenditure was
0.3%. MinLaw’s provision of $106 million for operating expenditure was
an increase of $8.1 million or 8.2%.
- 45.5% of the total operating expenditure was for the Lands and Estates
Administration Programme with an allocation of $48.2 million. This was
followed by $10.5 million (9.9%) for Computer Services Programme. Land
Titles and Deeds Registration Programme was $9.8 million (9.3%);
Official Assignee and Public Trustee Programme was $7.7 million (7.3%)
and Land Surveys Programme was $7.65 million (7.2%).
- Development expenditure of $418.6 million was a decrease of $0.44
million (13.8%). Of the total expenditure, a major portion was for land
acquisition for general development and for the development of
North-East Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line ($364.5 million). Other major
developments include Diversion Works at Jurong West, Land Data Hub Phase
2 and Improvements to State Lands/Provision of Amenities.
Ministry of National Development
- Ministry of National Development’s (MND) main goal is to facilitate
the physical development of Singapore through rational and far-sighted
planning. It is manned by some 2,608 employees. Total expenditure for
MND was $1.43 billion, of which 32% was for operating expenditure and
68% for development expenditure. This represented an 8.5% increase. The
provision of $460.1 million for operating expenditure comprises $268.7
million for Running Costs and $191.4 for Transfers. Running Costs were
used to meet the operating budgets of four departments (ie. MND HQ,
Computer Information Systems Department, Public Works Department and
Primary Production Department) and two statutory boards (ie.
Construction Industry Development Board and National Parks Board). $0.79
billion (81%) of development expenditure of $0.97 billion was allocated
for public housing programmes such as Subsidy to Housing Development
Board (HDB) and HDB’s Upgrading Programme.
Ministry of Trade and Industry
- The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is responsible for the
promotion and creation of national wealth through sustained and stable
economic growth. MTI has a staff of 389 and a total expenditure of
$3085.8 million. Operating expenditure accounted for 11% while
Development expenditure accounted for 89%. This represented an increase
of 7.9%, due to higher development expenditure. Operating expenditure
increased by $18.5million or 5.9%. This was mainly due to higher running
costs of two statutory boards, viz Economic Development Board (EDB) and
Productivity and Standards Board (PSB). Regionalisation efforts by MTI
HQ, EDB and Trade Development Board (TDB) required a total provision of
$19.8 million, an increase of $6.7 million.
- Development expenditure increased by $0.25 billion or 9.8% to $2.76
billion. Allocations for the development of Jurong Island project,
research and development activities, reclamation at Changi East, Buran
Darat and Tuas View, EDAS, construction of Mega Exhibition Centre at
Changi, and provision of infrastructure for industrial sites accounted
for about 88% of development expenditure.
- Civil Service Recruitment and Promotion Systems
- This can be divided between 2 distinct periods:
- Before 1995; and
- After 1995.
- Under Article 110 of the Constitution of Singapore, the Public Service
Commission (PSC) has the power to appoint and promote public officers. The
PSC has the power to confirm an officer on probation. It has kept the
power to confirm administrative officers but has delegated the powers to
Permanent Secretaries and Superscale Officers who are Heads of departments
to confirm all other officers in Division I and in Divisions II to IV.
After 1995-Delegation of Powers
- Since January 1995, the Civil Service has devolved the authority for key
personnel functions such as appointments and promotions from the Public
Service Commission (PSC), Education Service Commission (ESC) and Police
and Civil Defence Services Commission (PCDSC) to a system of Personnel
Boards. This is to allow the Civil Service to be more responsive and to
give line managers greater authority over the management of their
officers. However, the ESC and PCDSC have been dissolved with effect from
1 Apr 98.
- The PSC takes charge of all Superscale officers Grade D and above. In
addition, the PSC retains the authority to discipline civil servants
leading to a reduction in rank or dismissal.
- Personnel Boards take over from the Service Commissions the authority
for recruitment, promotion and related personnel management functions
concerning most civil servants. To date, there are three levels of
Personnel Boards, viz the Special Personnel Board, the Senior Personnel
Boards and Personnel Boards as illustrated in Table 1.4.
Table 1.4: Civil Service Personnel Management
Superscale D and above
Superscale officers up to E1 and
Division II, III and IV
Special Personnel Board
- The Special Personnel Board takes charge of Superscale officers up to E1
and timescale officers in the Administrative Service and Administrative
Service (Foreign Service Branch). The Board is chaired by the Head of
Civil Service with Permanent Secretary (Prime Minister’s Office) and
three other appointed Permanent Secretaries as members. Their appointment
is made by the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, subject to
the discretionary veto powers of the President.
Senior Personnel Boards
- There are six Senior Personnel Boards, each taking charge of Division I
officers in a group of ministries except timescale officers in the
Administrative Service and officers in the Auditing and Parliamentary
- Each board is chaired by an appointed Permanent Secretary (PS). PSs of
the ministries under a particular Senior Personnel Board are members of
that board. The Chairman and members are appointed by the President on the
advice of the Prime Minister, subject to the discretionary veto powers of
- Each Ministry has at least one Personnel Board to take charge of
Division II, III and IV officers. Ministries with large numbers of
officers may have more than one Personnel Board.
- There is a total of 24 Personnel Boards for Division II, III and IV
officers. The Personnel Board is chaired by a Superscale officer in that
Ministry. There shall be not less than two and not more than four members,
including 1 PSD representative. The Chairman and members are appointed by
the Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office.
- An officer aggrieved by the decision of a personnel board may submit an
appeal to the Appeals Board stating the grounds of appeal. The members of
the Appeals Board are appointed by the President on the advice of the
Prime Minister, subject to the discretionary veto powers of the President.
- Should the Appeals Board turn down the appeal and the appellant confirms
in writing that he wishes to further appeal against the decision of the
Appeals Board, the Chairman of the Appeals Board will refer the appeal to
- Civil Service Pay and Emoluments Structure
- There are 144 schemes of service. A listing is in Appendix 1
- The Singapore government pegs the salaries of ministers and civil
servants to those in the private sector. There are two benchmarks used:
One for Ministers and the other for Superscale G, the first Superscale
grade for the Administrative Service. The other salaries are then
interpolated or extrapolated from these two points.
- The earnings comparison of Ministers and senior civil servants are with
top local professionals in the private sector. There are 3 possible
- Bankers. Average salary of the top 10 bankers;
- 9 Professions. Average salary of the top four individuals from 9
professions (Bankers; Accountants; Engineers; Lawyers; Local manufacturing
companies; Multi-National Corporations[MNCs]; Oil Companies; Architects;
- 6 Professions. Average salary of the top four individuals from 6
professions (Bankers; Accountants; Engineers; Lawyers; Local manufacturing
companies; and MNCs).
- From the results of detailed analysis, it was noted that for the first
option, it was too narrow a base as comparison was only with a few
individuals in the private sector. Also IRAS data shows that the average
is not stable from year to year. The third option while being much more
stable than the first, was not very suitable in that not all of the 9
professions were arguably comparable to a Minister’s job. The second
option proved to be the most viable where the 6 professions chosen were
of general management skills and not just specialised technical
- Based on the 1992 earnings, the average earnings of the top four
earners in each of the 6 professions (ie. 24 individuals) was
$1,217,000.00. The Staff Grade I salary after revision was $587,000.00,
less than half (48%) the benchmark. The Government will not set a
Minister’s salary to match fully the private sector average. It will
set the Staff Grade I salary at one-third discount to the private
sector. This discount will be a visible demonstration of the sacrifice
involved in becoming a Minister. It is sustainable provided it is not
allowed to widen over time. The Government thus proposes to set the long
term benchmark for a Staff Grade I Minister’s salary: Two-thirds the
average principle earned income of the top four individuals from each of
the 6 professions: bankers, accountants, engineers, lawyers, local
manufacturing companies, and MNCs.
Superscale G Benchmark
- The Superscale G benchmark works on a similar basis to Minister’s
Benchmark. But instead of comparing against the top earners in the 6
professions regardless of age, it compares within the same age group.
- A good Administrative Officer should reach Superscale G by the age of
32. Recent Promotions to Superscale G have been later than this, but
promotion norms were revised to bring forward this key promotion into
the first Superscale grade for good officers. Thus, Superscale G
earnings will be pegged to earnings of top professionals aged 32, using
the following benchmark: The average of the principal earned income of
the 15th person aged 32-years old, belonging to 6 professions
(bankers, accountants, engineers, lawyers, local manufacturing
companies, and MNCs) ["15P32" income].
- Based on 1992 earnings, the benchmark figure of 15P32 is $199,000. The
Superscale G annual income of $150,000 after 1 January 94 revision was
75% of the benchmark. As in the case of Staff Grade I, it will increase
the Superscale G salary gradually, to reach 100% in 3 years.
- The Superscale G benchmark is not set at a discount to the
corresponding private sector figure, unlike the Minister’s benchmark.
It is unrealistic, and unfair to expect civil servants to make a
financial sacrifice compared to their private sector peers, in order to
enter public service.
- The Civil Service Pay Scales are categorised into various grades of
service, which vary marginally from one service to another. For example,
for the Administrative Scheme – service grades start from Senior
Administrative Officer Staff Grade V to Administrative Assistant. . A
detailed payscale for Administrative Service is available in Appendix 2.
- Civil Service Training, Capacity Building and Human Resources
- There are 2 main training institutes:
- Civil Service College- where all administrative officers are trained;
- Institute of Public Admin – for all lower grade officers.
- In addition many ministries now adopt the People's Developer Standard.
Based on international models of human resource excellence and field
tested with leading companies in Singapore, the People Developer
Standard has three components:
- Implementation; and
- The People Developer Standard follows the following methodology:
- Review the Present Career Development Plan for Staff, which should Bear
Succession Planning in Mind;
- Determine the Training Needs ie. the Gap between the Skills Required for
the Job and the Skills of the Staff Assigned to the Job and the Training
Required for Succession Planning and Career Planning.
- Produce Total Organisation Training Plan;
- Develop Career Development Plan integrated with Training Plan for each
staff category and each of the persons picked as possible candidates for
- Determine Budget and Staff Required to Implement Training Plan;
- Train Staff in Implementation for the Programme;
- Communicate Development Plans to Staff;
- Monitor Utilisation of Training by Staff;
- Establish Procedures for evaluating HRD activities;
- Suggest Improvements to Induction Programmes; and
- Suggest How to Maintain the Systems and Standard During the Validity
Period to Ensure Requalification;
- Ethics, Integrity and Bureaucratic Corruption
- As mentioned earlier, the Singapore civil servants are one of the best
paid in the world and hence the likelihood of their being corrupt is
small. Nevertheless there is a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau
which reports directly to the Prime Minister
- Civil Service Autonomy Within Legal Frameworks
- Civil servants are not allowed to have political affiliations-this
ensures the neutrality of the civil service. This is a practice inherited
from the British. Also civil servants are protected against arbitrary
dismissals as evidenced by the powers of the Appeals Board and the PSC.
- A civil servant can be dismissed under these circumstances:
- Due to misconduct, negligence or other disciplinary grounds. In which
case, the Permanent Secretary has to follow the Public Service
(Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations 1970 or refer to the Public Service
- When an officer is absent from duty without leave or reasonable cause
for more than 7 continuous days, including Sundays and Public Holidays.
- The retirement ages of all monthly-rated officers are provided for under
the Pensions Act (Chapter 55) and the approving authorities. The ages vary
from 45 (Female - optional) to 55 (Male – optional) or 60 (Male – age
limit). Procedures for retirement vary, depending on point of retirement
(whether at optional or age limit) or for various reasons, such as on
- Retirement at 50 years- Section 7(2)(i) of the Pensions Act- Those who
joined the service on or after 1 July 1956, or were re-appointed after
they resigned to get married, may retire at the age of 50 years with the
consent of the President. This is often used as a means for voluntary
Retirement on Reaching the Age Limit
- If the approving authority is the President, a recommendation to retire
an officer because he has reached the age limit must reach that officer’s
Permanent Secretary not later than 4 months before the date of retirement.
On receiving the recommendation, the Permanent Secretary must make sure
that several procedures be complied with. He must then seek the President’s
order to retire the officer under Section 9(c ) or 7(2)(a) or (b) of the
Retirement at the Optional Age
- An officer wishing to retire at the optional age must submit to his
Permanent Secretary an application setting out his reasons for wishing to
retire. This must be done at least 6 months before the date on which he
wishes to go on leave before retirement. If there is evidence that the
reason being ill health, his application may be accepted under Section
7(2)(a) of the Pensions Act (Chapter 55). Otherwise, his application may
be rejected, but reasons other than health may also be considered
Retirement on Medical Grounds
- If a Medical Board appointed under Section H reports that an officer is
medically unfit, and he asks, in writing, to be retired, the consent of
the President to retire him on medical grounds under Section 7(2)(c ) of
the Pensions Act has to be obtained. If the officer does not ask to be
retired, the Permanent Secretary has to ask the President, under Section
9(c) of the Pensions Act, to order the officer to retire on medical
grounds in the public interest.
- The Permanent Secretary in person, or an officer authorised by him, has
to seek the President’s consent or order to retire an officer on medical
grounds. A certificate signed by the officer’s Head of Department must
accompany the submission to the President. The submission must invite the
President’s attention to the Certificate and the Departments, such as
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Certificate must be signed by the
Permanent Secretary in person.
Civil Service Performance on Service Delivery Activities
- PERFORMANCE-ORIENTED ISSUES
- Civil Service Performance on Core Government Functions
- Core government ministries have corporatised some of its departments or
converted them into statutory boards. E.g. Defence recently announced the
setting up of a statutory board for its defence technology arm. The Inland
Revenue Department of the MOF has been converted into a statutory board, the
Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, IRAS, in 1991 and funded on a % of
tax collected basis. MOF has corporatised its management services department
in 1990, as MSD Consultants Pte Ltd.
- The non-corporatised or non-statutory board entities nevertheless have a
management accounting system, which will measure the costs of its
activities. Alternatively, they are established as Executive Agencies, with
measurable performance targets.
These organisations rely on a mixture of privatisation, corporatisation,
formation of statutory boards, executive agencies, management accounting
systems and performance budgeting with performance indicators to keep
themselves efficient. E.g. MOH has corporatised most of its hospitals with
subsidies for each class of ward on a per patient basis. The MOH HQ is now a
policy-making and watchdog organisation. The Public Works department has
recently been corporatised.
The ENV has corporatised its refuse-collection arm and it has to compete
with private-sector companies for government contracts.
As for the Ministry of Communications, the Land Transport Authority was
set up a few years ago to take over the functions of the Registry of
Vehicles, Mass Rapid Transit Corporation and the Roads Branch of the Public
Works Department. It is funded on a per vehicle population basis. Singapore
Telecoms was corporatised in 1993 and is now being supervised by the
Telecoms Authority of Singapore (TAS), which also supervises other
telecommunications operators such as M1.
The Port of Singapore Authority was corporatised on 1st October
1997 into the PSA Corporation Ltd. under Temasek Holdings. Its subsidiaries
include MAP Services Pte. Ltd.; Singapore Enterprises Pte. Ltd.; SPECS
Consultants Pte. Ltd.; Bohai Rim Investment Pte. Ltd.; Changi International
Airport Services Pte. Ltd. and; Suzue-PSA Cold Storage Pte. Ltd.
On 1st October, 1995, the Public Utilities Board's electricity
and gas undertakings were corporatised into 5 subsidiaries - a gas
subsidiary (PowerGas), an electricity supply subsidiary (Power Supply), an
electricity transmission and distribution subsidiary (T&D Company), 2
generator subsidiaries under Singapore Power Pte. Ltd. as holding company.
The water department remains under PUB.
Public housing is under the Housing and Development Board, a statutory
Some independent schools have been established under the Ministry of
Education e.g. Raffles Institution and the Anglo Chinese School.
The Ministry of Information and the Arts has a Singapore Broadcasting
Authority that is a statutory board with regulatory and promotional
functions but the actual delivery of the services is under a corporatised
entity, the Singapore International Media. This, in turn, has subsidiaries
such as Television Corporation of Singapore, TV 12, and Radio Corporation of
Singapore, which actually deliver the broadcasting services.
Within each organisation, targets are set for service delivery. For
example, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore claims that the first bag
of a first class passenger will be on the carousel when he walks out of
immigration. The Immigration Department claims that all passport applicants
will get their passports within 1 working day.
Civil Service Management, Political Supervision and Public Accountability
The service has several checks and balances:
- President as the guardian of country's reserves;
- Auditor-General and Public Accounts Committee;
- Value for Money Audits and Planned Reviews by the Auditor-General;
- Government Parliamentary Committees;
- Performance Indicators in Budget Book;
- Management Accounting Systems using activity-based costing;
- Published Salary Scales;
- Corporatisation/Privatisation and formation of statutory boards; and
- Executive Agencies.
Developing Support and Systems for Effective Performance
- PROCESS ORIENTED
- Designing Civil Service Reforms
- Singapore does not have a well-defined civil service reform programme. It
has prided itself to have always valued efficiency and effectiveness and in
the early 1970s established a Management Services Department (MSD) under the
MOF to be responsible for the efficiency and effectiveness of the public
sector as the Minister of Finance was supposed to be responsible for this
task. MSD was itself corporatised in 1990 and became a company 100% owned by
Every measure undertaken to improve efficiency and effectiveness has to
have the support of both the minister in charge and the Director of the
department involved, before there can be any success. For example, the move
to corporatised the Public Works Department (PWD) took a number of years
because the former Director was against the idea. Only upon his passing did
the new Director agree to the move. Also this batch of ministers and
permanent secretaries are more ready for coporatisation and privatisation
and open competition.
What is more difficult to overcome is the civil servant's fear of the need
to compete and the loss of his iron-rice bowl. The guaranteeing or freezing
of their pension rights upon coporatisation and privatisation is essential.
Ensuring High Level Monitoring and Co-ordination of Civil Service Reforms
An example of how the government tries to maintain the interest in any
measure that it is currently undertaking is illustrated by the "Public
Service for the 21st Century" (PS21) programme.
The PS21 has two basic objectives:
- To nurture an attitude of service excellence in meeting the needs of the
public with high standards of quality, courtesy and responsiveness.
- To foster an environment which induces and welcomes continuous change
for greater efficiency and effectiveness by employing modern management
tools and techniques while paying attention to morale and welfare of
- The first objective is more tangible but the second is far more
fundamental. It involves transforming mindsets and creating a different
organisational culture and norms. PS21 is a change about change - not
change to a specific final stage but an acceptance of the need for
change as a permanent state.
- To ensure interest in PS21, several Committees were established - The
Central Steering Committee, the PS21 Functional Committees, The
Organisations’ PS21 Committees, PS21 Office.
- The Central Steering Committee – This is the Committee of
Permanent Secretaries that is chaired by the Head of Civil Service. The
Committee oversees the progress of PS21 with the following commitment:
- At the individual level, a personal commitment to excellence in public
service and teamwork; and
- At the organisation level, a willingness to reform and make fundamental
changes in order to anticipate developments in the domestic and
- The PS21 Functional Committees – These four committees each
address one of the elements of PS21. The four elements being Staff well
being, Excel, Organisational Review and Quality Service. The four
committees are chaired by Permanent Secretaries with representatives from
all ministries, they are committed to share information, develop ideas and
spearhead inter-ministry organisation.
- The Organisations’ PS21 Committees – Working the proposals and
managing the process are the responsibility of ministries, statutory
boards and organs of state. This work is overseen by PS21 Committee,
headed by the Chief Executive Officer at each organisation.
- PS21 Office – Making known the efforts of Ministries, Organs of
State and Statutory Boards is the task of the PS21 Office (PSO) at Public
- PSO works with organisations and the four functional committees to
promote PS21 through projects, events and publications such as the
monthly PS21 newsletter "Challenge" and the PS21 Intranet
- Maintaining Sustained Leadership and Commitment for Civil Service
- Besides the commitment within the Civil Service, there should be a strong
political will, especially to eradicate corruption. This was what Mr
Lee Kuan Yew did when he first became Prime Minister. It has been said
that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau had planted
"spies" in the departments that were prone to corruption to weed
out the culprits. No one is spared, not even the ministers. One Minister
of National Development committed suicide when he was investigated for
corruption in the 1980s.
- BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS FOR EFFECTIVE CIVIL SERVICE REFORMS
- Partnership of Politicians and Civil Servants
- Civil servants are supposed to be politically neutral. Nevertheless, the
ministers rely a great deal on the advice of civil servants especially the
- Many of the present ministers were ex civil servants, especially former
government scholars. Hence they have a good understanding of the operations
of the civil service.
- The trade union in Singapore, The National Trade Union Co-operative, while
striving to protect and serve its labour force, maintains a close
relationship with the government and employers in a united effort to
maintain and promote Singapore’s competitiveness. It functions on the
basis of a tripartite partnership – industrial peace with justice and
- NTUC's objectives are:
- To help Singapore stay competitive and workers to stay employable for
- To enhance the social status and well being of workers
- To built a strong, responsible and caring labour movement
- The 5 Pillars of the NTUC are:
- Enhance Worker’s Employability for Life;
- Strengthen Competitiveness;
- Build Healthy Body, Healthy Mind;
- Care More, Share More; and
- Develop A Stronger Labour Movement.
- Partnerships of Private and Public Sector Corporations
- Joint projects are undertaken jointly between the government and private
sector in Singapore e.g. Development Bank of Singapore, which is 49 %
owned by the Singapore Government and 51% owned by the other local banks.
- Joint projects are undertaken jointly between the Government-linked
companies (GLCs) and foreign companies in Indonesia and China e.g Batam
and Suzhou; and between Government-linked companies and other Singapore
companies to invest overseas e.g. the Technology Park at Bangalore and the
Bangalore International Airport.
- GLCs also compete with each other e.g. Keppel and Sembawang shipyards
that are both owned by Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd., the Government holding
company. One classic case of competition is the bid for the Subic Bay
Shipyard in the Philippines.
Use of Performance Tools
- PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES
- Continuous Emphasis on Performance
- As mentioned earlier, Singapore does not have formalised programmes of
Public Administration Reform. Instead it has always emphasised the
importance of performance of the public sector and letters to the press
complaining about the standard of service of the civil service are
scrutinised even by the politicians, including the ministers.
The Singapore Civil Service has adopted a series of tools to help it
ensure its own performance. These include privatisation, corporatisation,
and formation of statutory boards and executive agencies, management
accounting systems and performance budgeting with performance indicators.
High Civil Service Salaries with Rewards Tied to the Performance of the
Singapore Civil servants are the highest paid in the world. This is based
on the premise that one should pay for good talent and that this would leave
no room for corruption.
Nevertheless, even when the salaries were not pegged to private-sector
scales, civil servants were comfortably paid and there was very little
corruption. This is because when Mr Lee Kuan Yew took over as the first
Prime Minister after independence, he made fighting corruption a mission and
a whole generation has grown up with it as an accepted way of life and corruption
is frowned upon by the entire society.
Strong Political Will
This is crucial to eradicate corruption and ensure and efficient and
effective civil service. In many of the developing countries that the author
has worked in, this appears to be lacking.
Leadership by example is essential if corruption is to be eradicated.
Singapore leaders are, and have been, essentially non-corrupt and hence have
the moral ground to expect that out of the civil servants. In many of the
developing countries that the author has worked in, this also appears to be
Scholarships to Attract and Retain the Best Brains
Good talent has been attracted to the civil service in the past because of
its elaborate undergraduate scholarship schemes to some of the best
universities in the world. All such scholarships carry with it a 8-year bond
and they allow the Service to attract and retain some of the best brains in
Increasingly, as the country becomes more affluent, there are less
scholarship applicants and the government is becoming increasingly concerned
with this trend.
Good government is almost like a religion, which must be a firm belief
among its followers and continuously practised. It cannot come in
spurts like the many public administration reform programmes that many
developing countries have embarked upon and failed over the past 30 years
because of the lack of institutional building and commitment to its success.
In Singapore, this belief in an efficient, effective and non-corrupt
Service is so religiously practised that the country does not have a
distinct public administration reform programme. Yet, it is one of the most
efficiently run countries in the world. Much credit though must go to that
one person who loved the country enough to have the political will to make
this happen in the first place-the first Prime Minister of Singapore.