“Some may call it “second-guessing”, but it is beneficial for civil servants to understand the Government’s priorities and work with Ministers to craft policies in the same direction, said Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Jan 8). The culture in the Public Service and concerns about its possible politicisation came under the spotlight in Parliament as it passed the Public Sector (Governance), Bill. Among other things, the wide-ranging new legislation formalises the sector’s “administrative requirements to comply with key central policies”, said Mr Ong, who leads public service innovation efforts.” – CNA
This headline alone scares me. Ask any working adult in the private sector, I guarantee you, and they will all tell you that they are working towards a common goal. Everyone who works in that company knows and understands the bigger picture of the company. They are aware of the mission statement and the vision of the business and they work together to achieve that goal. Knowing that, for a Minister to say now that civil servants need to understand the Government’s priorities is mind-boggling. Are you telling me that after all these years, civil servants have been going to work every day and they have no idea what the government’s agenda is or what the priorities are? What are they doing at work then?
I’m not trying to be a wet blanket here, I was a civil servant for more than 13 years myself and I know that not every employee is privy to all information and much of that information is always in confidence anyways. But, to say that civil servants need to understand the agenda and the priorities of the government is a little far-fetched, don’t you think? If you worked in the Ministry of Defence, your agenda and priorities should be the security of Singapore. If you are part of the Ministry of Education, your priority is the proper education of students while maintaining a certain standard.
How can you say that civil servants do not know the agenda and the priorities of the government? Employees should know these things before starting work. If not, what are they working towards or trying to achieve? It’s the same when it comes to crafting policies, as Minister of Education Mr Ong Ye Kung said. How do you write a policy if you have no idea what the mission or vision is? If they are bringing this issue up now, in Parliament, how have they been writing policy for the last 50 years?
I understand that not everything is black and white and there will always be lack of information, due to security, confidential information and need-to-know basis when it comes to the government. But, if you want civil servants to do productive work, there cannot be a situation where a Minister says that employees should know what the government’s agenda is and its priorities. No private company will ever say that their employees do not know the agenda or priorities of its company. That’s just not good for business.