PSC casts net wide for diverse talent

The Public Service is widening its net, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday, because its ranks should comprise people of different backgrounds, skillsets and experiences.

He was speaking to a cohort of 92 young scholarship recipients that is the Public Service Commission's (PSC) most diverse in recent history.

While the bulk are still from the usual top junior colleges, five scholarship holders this year hail from polytechnics, while two are from the School of the Arts (Sota).

PSC scholarships are seen as a pipeline for future top senior civil servants.

In May, the Public Service also moved to diversify its top ranks by creating a class of senior civil servants who are specialists in key policy areas. They will work alongside its elite Administrative Officers, who are generalists and have experience across different ministries.

Mr Teo, who is the minister in charge of the civil service, told the PSC scholarship holders yesterday that ability is important in a top civil servant, but so are empathy and integrity.

"Public officers must have our hearts in the right place, and derive happiness from other people's happiness and well-being," he said in his keynote speech at the scholarship awards ceremony.

He emphasised that the best policies are developed when public officers reach out to different segments in society to understand their needs. The public, he said, can also be tapped for their "collective wisdom".

Being open to ideas and suggestions from the public helps develop proposals, refine policies and generate better solutions, he said.

For example, the Our Singapore Conversation engagement exercise has yielded suggestions that have already been enacted, like having MediShield coverage for neonatal and congenital diseases, noted Mr Teo.

The work of public officers succeeds only if it is built on trust between the civil service and the public, he added, which is why integrity must undergird everything they do.

Over the past year, senior civil servants like the former head of the Central Narcotics Bureau Ng Boon Gay and the former head of the Singapore Civil Defence Force Peter Lim have been charged with corruption in cases that "have put the integrity of the Public Service in the spotlight", said Mr Teo.

Mr Ng was acquitted, while Lim was found guilty and sentenced to six months in jail.

Individual failings, which are dealt with "without fear or favour", should not erode confidence in Singapore's public institutions and the people who serve in them, said Mr Teo.

Scholarship holders yesterday welcomed the Public Service's new focus on diversity in its ranks.

Ms Joey Ong, 20, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic diploma holder who plans to major in sociology at the National University of Singapore, said her polytechnic background has given her a broader network.

"Some of my friends are going straight to work," she said.

"Some of them don't even know what PSC is. That's the beauty of a poly education."

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