Sunday 25 May 2014

Good Governance - Addenda to President’s Address 2014

Call for nimble public service with its ear to the ground
DPM Teo reminds officers to grasp citizens' concerns and adjust policies
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 24 May 2014

SINGAPOREANS' needs have grown increasingly diverse and the speed at which these are changing prompted Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday to remind public servants that they must be nimble and swift in their response.

In order to do so, he said, two things must be in place. Public officers and agencies have to strive to understand Singaporeans' concerns and interests, and then adjust policies and programmes accordingly.

This responsive attitude is one of three ways for the public service to renew its emphasis on working together to serve Singaporeans better, Mr Teo said at the annual Excellence in Public Service award ceremony.

The other two are for officers to work more closely with one another across agencies, and to "create space" and find new ways for Singaporeans to take part in developing and implementing policies.

In recent years, government leaders have repeatedly called on public servants to be nimble and responsive.

The reason is that as Singaporeans become more educated, with broader and higher aspirations, their needs and interests have become more varied, noted Mr Teo, who is the minister-in-charge of the civil service.

Rules and processes, in turn, have to change to keep abreast of new developments, he said.

For instance, the Defence Ministry took heed of national servicemen's concerns and now allows camera phones to be used in less sensitive areas in military camps.

Public agencies will also have to "see beyond their own mandates" and work closely together to effectively resolve issues and challenges, which often cut across multiple agencies, said Mr Teo.

An example of the "one public service" mindset is the new Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), set up last year to handle all pre-school issues previously spread across different agencies.

New initiatives like the ECDA have "already started to deliver better outcomes", he said.

Finally, agencies have to find new ways to tap people's ideas and energy, as this will "help us have a sense of ownership to build our Singapore together".

During the ceremony at Gardens by the Bay, Mr Teo and Mr Peter Ong, head of the civil service, gave out 177 awards to agencies and individuals who made a mark in service.

Building a first-class public service is also key to achieving good governance, the theme of the final addenda to the President's Address released yesterday.

Mr Teo, in the addenda for the Public Service Division, which comes under the Prime Minister's Office, pledged, among other things, a ground-up approach to improving service.

"This will start with the delivery of municipal services, such as public cleanliness, grass-cutting and maintenance of walkways and drains, and assistance to families with several social service needs that cut across agencies," he said.

5 things to know from Day 5 of the Addenda to President's address
The Straits Times, 23 May 2014

President Tony Tan Keng Yam opened the new session of Parliament last Friday, mapping out the Government's priorities and policies for the rest of the term.

For a week starting from Monday, the ministries will unveil their respective plans in public statements, known as Addenda to the President's Address. After that, Parliament will sit, for a week, to debate these plans.

We summarise 5 key things to know from Day 5 which focused on the theme "Good Governance":

10 officers honoured for serving with a big heart
By Andrea Ong and Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 24 May 2014

SCHOOL was due to begin in just over a week.

Chia Hong Sen, who was born blind, was looking forward to his first year at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), where he had been admitted to an engineering course.

But the polytechnic was worried about Hong Sen's safety, as he would have to do electrical wiring and soldering.

It raised his case with the Education Ministry and the matter was taken up by Mr Arthur Poh, a deputy director who was part of a team studying how to support special needs students at institutes of higher learning.

After a series of long meetings involving Hong Sen and staff of the polytechnic and ministry, as well as the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, it was agreed that he would study IT - his second choice - instead.

As Hong Sen would be the first totally visually impaired student at the polytechnic, Mr Poh said he and its management had questions about the resources the teen would need.

After doing some research, he found an article by a National University of Singapore professor on how he taught Dr Yeo Sze Ling, a blind student who went on to get her PhD in Maths and become an A*Star research scientist.

Mr Poh, 41, got in touch with Dr Yeo through her former professor. She was eager to help.

He drove her to one of the meetings, an "eye-opening session" where she demonstrated the methods and devices she used to help her during her studies and even offered to mentor Hong Sen.

Mr Poh's efforts were lauded yesterday when he and nine other public officers received the prestigious Distinguished Star Service Award from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is minister-in-charge of the civil service.

It is one of the top honours at the annual Excellence in Public Service Awards.

The 10 Distinguished Star Service Award winners share two traits that were highlighted by Mr Teo: a big heart and the willingness to go the extra mile.

One of them, the People's Association's Mr Lu Juncai, was singled out by Mr Teo as an officer who "extends help with a heart".

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

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

Another winner with lots of heart is Ms Jan Koh, 31, a senior medical social worker at the National Heart Centre, who provides a listening ear and shoulder to cry on for patients and their families.

PUB senior technical officer Shamsudin Mohd Amil, 45, gives his mobile number to people to call him directly when, say, their water pipe bursts again, instead ofgoing via the call centre.

For Mr Poh, who is back at Singapore Polytechnic after his two-year ministry stint, his encounter with Hong Sen showed him the importance of flexibility in crafting and executing policies.

It also brought home how successful policies are not just the work of policymakers. "The entire TP team and the students put their energies together to help Hong Sen."

For instance, tutors look out for assistive devices that can help Hong Sen with his work, he meets a counsellor every week, and he has a care group of 20 classmates who take turns to be his "buddy".

Hong Sen, now 17 and in his second year, hopes to go to university and find an IT-related job. Mr Poh believes he can do it. When the pair were photographed at Hong Sen's house, his parting shot to the teen was: "See you at your graduation."

Other winners included Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which received a best practice award for organisation development.

An eye on public interest amid media convergence
By Irene Tham, The Straits Times, 24 May 2014

IN 2012, Apple launched iTunes here, offering viewers movies streamed to their computers, phones and tablets.

Now, Samsung has revealed plans to debut a TV show rental service for its device users here.

These new services that blur the lines between different media platforms are challenging Singapore's decades-old media regulatory framework. It is unclear whether these Internet video-streaming services need to apply for a broadcasting licence to operate here.

Apple's iTunes caused a stir, as it was offering R21 movies containing nudity and violence - content that pay-TV providers and video retailers here are banned from distributing. Apple later took down these R21 titles and has since been in talks with regulators on its licensing requirements here.

So, it is timely that the Ministry of Communications and Information is looking to amend the Broadcasting Act to address converged media services issues.

The ministry said yesterday in its Addenda to the President's Address that it plans to "ensure infocomm and media regulations protect and uphold the public interest and the national interest".

Details are not out but based on the recommendations of the Media Convergence Review Panel in November 2012, the Government could demand that foreign online video service providers targeting Singapore get a licence. They should follow the law of the land in ensuring content does not damage national harmony or offend good taste.

Besides not distributing R21 movies here, Singapore pay-TV operators such as SingTel and StarHub, and video retailers here also have to rate films' suitability for various age groups.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim told Parliament in March of the need for "greater parity in the treatment of local and overseas broadcasters".

If a foreign player enters the local market and offers the same content as SingTel and StarHub, but does not need to pay licensing fees or abide by the local content rating system, there would be unhappiness from companies that play by the rules.

That means the local media regime needs to accommodate the latest technological developments to ensure fairness for all video service players here. New players should be welcomed as they inject competition, which benefits consumers. Still, public and national interests need to be protected.

Parents, for one, would want the assurance that movies or TV shows streamed to smartphones or tablets do not create a legitimate backdoor for children to access content unsuitable for them.

Parliament debate starts on Monday
The Straits Times, 24 May 2014

PARLIAMENT kicks off on Monday a week-long debate on the President's Address and the Government's various programmes.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, will get things started with a speech thanking President Tony Tan Keng Yam for delivering the address for the Government last Friday that reopened Parliament after a month-long break. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will speak on Wednesday.

This week, ministries introduced their plans across five broad themes, culminating with good governance yesterday.

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