'Integrity underpins civil service in S'pore, China'

'Integrity underpins civil service in S'pore, China'
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (right) and Mr Zhao Leiji, the Communist Party of China's personnel chief, speak before the fourth Singapore-China forum on leadership held at Shangri-La Hotel, on Nov 26, 2013.

The top leaders of the civil service in Singapore and China on Tuesday underlined the importance of integrity to good governance.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that integrity is key to building trust between the government and its people, "so the country can move together to realise a common vision".

Similarly, Mr Zhao Leji, head of China's Organisation Department, said officials should have integrity and "embrace benevolent governance" to serve the people.

They made the point in their speeches at the opening of the fourth Singapore-China Forum on Leadership, an annual conference at which senior officials from both countries discuss leadership planning issues.

Integrity is the starting point and key virtue of any public official, said Mr Zhao, who is the Communist Party of China's personnel chief and controls all its staff appointments.

"Integrity is the foundation of governance. The core requirement for officials is to, first of all, have high personal integrity," he said.

But integrity also goes beyond individual officers to that of institutions, said Mr Teo, who is the minister-in-charge of Singapore's civil service.

For example, Singapore has "strict financial controls and procedures, with checks and balances, which are regularly reviewed to address weaknesses or adapt to new circumstances", he said.

Singapore officers can also report suspected wrongdoing.

"We will launch an investigation once there is sufficient basis and information provided," said Mr Teo, adding that "firm action" is taken in all cases of wrongdoing.

Underpinning these processes are officers' "sound values" and society's norms: "Singaporeans and public officers would be outraged if they were asked for, or offered, a bribe," Mr Teo said.

China cultivates such moral character in officials through ethics courses and learning by example, said Mr Zhao, who led this year's 24-member delegation from China.

Both leaders also spoke about how their countries deal with corrupt officials.

"Individuals who have done wrong have been dealt with firmly but fairly in the courts or through disciplinary action," said Mr Teo. Mr Zhao noted that China punishes its officials who are ill-disciplined or have poor moral character, as a warning to others. Both agreed that fostering integrity would continue to be important.

Mr Zhao also said that improving officials' moral character "can't be done overnight", but is a "perpetual project that must be carried out step by step".

charyong@sph.com.sg


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