Open letter from PSC chairman Eddie Teo

Open letter from PSC chairman Eddie Teo

Here is the full letter written by Public Service Commission chairman Eddie Teo.

Second Open Letter

1. I wrote my first open letter in July 2009, a year after I became Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

It focused on the PSC interview process and was meant to help ensure that the applicants to PSC scholarships understood what kind of candidates PSC was looking for. We did not want the wrong people applying for the wrong reasons. That would be a waste of their time, our time, and taxpayers' money.

2. After serving one term, and as I go into my second term, I think it is timely for me to issue another letter, with a message for a broader audience. Having interviewed thousands of our top students and having interacted with members of the public, including parents and teachers, my colleagues and I feel that the PSC needs to explain its recruitment role further.

The PSC

3. The PSC oversees the appointment and promotion of key public sector leaders, but does not run, the Public Service. All PSC Members take an oath to serve "without fear or favour" and we take this commitment very seriously, especially when one of our core responsibilities is to oversee discipline in the Public Service. Members come from the private sector and this helps to ensure that the PSC remains impartial and independent. Since Members do voluntary service and have strong personal views, I ignore them at my own peril.

Their willingness to challenge me and their fellow PSC Members ensures that the best possible decisions are made, on the recruitment, posting, deployment and promotion of senior public servants. By training, they are quite diverse. There are four accountants, three lawyers, two engineers, one academic, one architect and one medical doctor on the Board. Three of them lead huge, corporate enterprises. Two of the 12 members are women. All major races are represented.

The Value of Diversity

4. The need for greater diversity has grown in recent years because our population and educational system have changed and our national problems are becoming more and more complex. We need a diverse Public Service to avoid "groupthink" and to appreciate the needs of a diverse Singapore population. The demographic composition is moving away from our traditional racial breakdown as more Singaporeans marry foreigners and migrants become citizens.

5. This diversity is beginning to emerge in the students we interview. More schools are being represented because all schools are getting better and more students are willing to choose them. Some students choose to go to the Polytechnic even though they could have gained entry to a Junior College (JC).

Students choose to study in the School Of The Arts (SOTA) and the Sports School not because they cannot study, but because they have different interests. We had our first President's Scholar from the Sports School this year, and judging from the high quality of the candidates we interview, I would not be surprised if SOTA or NUS High were to produce a President's Scholar very soon.

6. Our Public Service leaders recognise the need for diversity and realise that future public servants will be more questioning, and have different and divergent views, just like our population. Just as the government is changing the way it governs Singapore, Public Service leaders are learning how to manage a new generation of younger public servants, who want greater participation and more voice.

The PSC's effort to bring diversity into the Public Service will come to nought if divergent views are discouraged within the system and those who dare to question assumptions and have a non-conventional perspective are not valued and appreciated.

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