The trust that Singaporeans have in the Public Service is critical, and public servants must never take this for granted, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the Public Service Values Conference on Tuesday (Jan 13).
“We must maintain our zero tolerance for corruption, regardless of the rank and seniority of the officers involved,” he said. “We must never let corruption take hold here. Once it takes root, it is difficult to weed out.”
Mr Lee said Singapore is the “shining exception” when it comes to corruption, and must not only uphold its high standards, but work to enhance them.
MORE MEASURES TO FIGHT CORRUPTION
The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) has “served us well over the years” by keeping Singapore clean and preserving its reputation abroad, the Prime Minister said. To strengthen CPIB further, the Government is reviewing the Prevention of Corruption Act, and will increase the agency’s manpower by more than 20 per cent.
The public also plays an important role in fighting corruption, Mr Lee said. To increase public engagement, a One-Stop Corruption Reporting Centre will be set up so that complaints can be made more discreetly and in a more accessible manner. A permanent Heritage Gallery will also be set up to educate members of the public, he said.
Systems also have to be kept up to date – for example, by constantly reviewing procurement rules, appropriate approving authorities and spending limits, and by using technology to detect wrongdoing, Mr Lee said.
The public service must recognise and reward the right behaviour – not just ability and performance, but also good character and moral stewardship, he added. “We make sure that public officers are paid commensurate with their job scope, so that we can insist on high standards and performance. And avoid the problems of other countries which pay officials unrealistically low wages, resulting in endemic corruption at all levels.”
“PUBLIC SERVICE MUST DO BETTER”
“Integrity is not just a Public Service value, but one which has been firmly ingrained in Singapore society,” Mr Lee said, pointing out that few Singaporeans would consider offering a bribe to get something done.
Singaporeans should also not hesitate to report any wrongdoing – many corruption investigations, including cases from the private sector, start with tip-offs by members of the public or colleagues in the organisation who see something amiss and feel duty bound to report it, he said.
“This is the real achievement we have made in Singapore – a culture that is anti-corruption,” he said.
However, Singapore has dropped two ranks to seventh in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, and this could be due to several high-profile corruption cases that have emerged in the last few years, Mr Lee noted.
“So we must continue to do better. We must not let Singapore’s image be damaged. That would be a disservice to the many exemplary officers we have,” he said.
He urged public officers not to be demoralised when corruption cases surface. “Be resolved to punish the culprits and remedy the weaknesses, and work doubly hard to maintain the trust you have earned,” he said.
“As we look ahead towards the next 50 years, strong leadership, sound values, and robust systems will enable us to maintain high standards of integrity in the public service, and keep Singapore exceptional,” Mr Lee said, adding: “A first-rate Public Service will help to keep us ahead of the pack as we venture into the next chapter of the Singapore story.”