Heng Swee Keat: Where individuals are found culpable or wanting, we do not hesitate to take action.

Statement from Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat which was first published on Straits Times in response to the editorial from Zaobao about accountability of public services.

Is complacency the cause of our recent spate of distressing failures – from training deaths in national service to the SingHealth cyber attack; from power failures to misplaced postal mail? Have we become so lulled by our success that we have allowed high standards to lapse?

The Zaobao editorial of Feb 1 raises serious questions that my colleagues and I will not shirk. Singaporeans do expect the best of their Government and of themselves. We will not flinch from taking a hard look at ourselves each time there is a failure, and doing whatever is necessary to put things right.

But I reject the suggestion by some that the political leadership has allowed the whole system to go slack. And worse still, that we have gone soft on ourselves and the public service, failing to hold senior people accountable when things go wrong.

STRENGTHENING OUR SYSTEM

Each generation faces its own set of challenges. Singapore experienced serious incidents in the past too.

The Hotel New World collapse, the Sentosa cable car accident and the Jurong Shipyard Spyros explosion, to mention a few, resulted in many deaths. Each time, our pioneers learnt the painful lessons, and put things right.

Thanks to these collective efforts, Singapore has achieved a high level of development. It has not been easy, but we have always strived to maintain high standards and improve upon them.

Today, we operate larger and more complex systems. While these new systems have improved our lives, they have also brought new risks. We have had to anticipate and manage them, knowing that nothing can be absolutely risk-free.

One example is cyber security. We knew that becoming a Smart Nation would expose us to serious online threats. But not adopting IT was not an option.

After the “Anonymous” attacks on government IT systems in 2013, we established the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore. Later, we implemented Internet surfing separation in public agencies, against vocal objections. These have improved our cyber security but have not eliminated all risks.

Another example is the MRT. As the train system grew old and problems started to appear, we acted to resolve them. We introduced a new signalling system on the North-South and East-West lines. We purchased new trains and are building more rail lines to increase capacity. We benchmarked ourselves against the best in the world for reliability and service standards.

We should have started renewing the MRT system earlier. But we have learnt from this experience, and will keep on improving the system. We are not yet where we want to be. But surveys confirm that commuters have noticed the less crowded trains and more reliable service.

ENSURING ACCOUNTABILITY

Failures do and will occur. And when they do, we investigate thoroughly. In serious cases, we will convene independent Committees of Inquiry (COIs) to get to the bottom of things. COI findings, however awkward, are made public, like the recent COI on the SingHealth cyber security breach.

The Prime Minister holds ministers accountable for running their ministries properly, and correcting any shortcomings uncovered. Ministers also have to account to Parliament and to the public. When lapses occur, we deal with them transparently and honestly. This is the way to restore confidence in our systems and maintain the trust of our people.

Where individuals are found culpable or wanting, we do not hesitate to take action.

In the case of the SingHealth cyber attack, senior officers were held responsible and disciplined. Officers who had failed in their duties were punished, and some were dismissed.

Similarly, individuals involved in the leak of information on HIV-positive patients are being investigated and dealt with in court; and the SAF has disciplined senior officers and relieved them of command for training accidents.

Leaders have to take command responsibility. When something goes wrong, the leader of the organisation, be he the minister, permanent secretary or CEO, has to take responsibility and put things right. If the lapse shows that the leader has been slack, negligent or incompetent, then serious consequences must follow, including removal.

But we should not routinely dismiss officials whenever things go wrong, regardless of the facts or circumstances.

Doing so may give the appearance of solving the problem when that is not necessarily the case. It is more important to do the hard work of resolving the problem at the root, which requires the concerted effort of everyone.

Neither should our actions deter innovation, the willingness to think out of the box and try new solutions.

Mr Ting Kheng Siong, writing in Zaobao on Feb 3, is right to caution against creating a public service culture where “Doing more means making more mistakes; doing less means making fewer mistakes; and if we do nothing we will make no mistake”. That would be the most serious mistake we could make.

Singapore got here because our pioneers dared to take risks. All the ventures we are now so proud of – from Jurong Industrial Estate to Changi Airport – were once carried forward with no certainty they would succeed.

If public officers had not dared to take risks for fear of being axed if things went wrong, we would never have built an exceptional country.

CULTURE

Culture is set from the top, but it is realised daily through the actions of every individual in the organisation.

We seek to maintain the highest standards of excellence in Singapore. Each of us must strive for quality and safety, and take pride in what we do.

While some failures expose systemic weaknesses that must be fixed, others are caused simply by lax individual attitudes towards work.

As a society, we can learn from others like the Japanese and the Swiss, who have a strong sense of personal responsibility and a meticulous attention to detail. We must strengthen such personal mindsets at all levels of society, from the heads of organisations to front-line workers, in the private sector and the Government.

Though this imposes high demands on every Singaporean, we will persist on this path. If we become complacent and slack, we are finished.

That has to be in our DNA, carried forward from generation to generation – to always strive to do better for Singaporeans and for Singapore. The political leadership is committed to this ethos.

.

 

 

 

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35 Responses to “Heng Swee Keat: Where individuals are found culpable or wanting, we do not hesitate to take action.”

  • opposition dude:

    Ah it seems like the regular PAP comedy show has resumed after the first 2 days of CNY. Perfect lah!

    From what stroke Heng said it’s purely laughable and hollow, nothing more than that. Making such a silly wayang speech won’t fool people Mr Heng, it’s the numbers of SAF deaths that are in plain sight for us all to see. Your speech sounds exactly like what your colleagues or some senior civil serpent would say anyway, who doesn’t know how to say things will be tightened and all that?

    And guess what happens after all the silly things are said? You guessed it, the same damn problem happens again!

    And the part about accountability HA HA HA HA HA! Sure, some people are sacked by Singhealth but so what, people are asking what your colleague Gan is doing, how come nothing has happened to him yet? 2 serious lapses in less than 6 months shows he is incompetent and YET is still a minister collecting that fat salary month after month? Where is the accountability from Gan? Same goes for your colleague Ng Eng Hen, so many deaths in a short time and still minister, head not chopped?

    And it goes to show just how tidak apa the worse than useless PM is. Dares not sack his ministers and also just keeps quiet and lets the whole issue die down. What kind of a leader is he ah?

    So at the end of the day Mr Stroke victim, your speech does not make anyone feel relieved, it just smacks of hypocrisy, arrogance and false promises. We all know that complacency doesn’t vanish overnight so we are expecting more lapses from now on.

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  • Where is your boss ?:

    After HSK defending the post, in the next few days many more of the minions will be doing the same.
    Its never their fault, always someone else’s fault.
    A bunch of irritating specimens.

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  • Bapak:

    His boss is hiding under the skirt.

    Where is your boss ?:
    After HSK defending the post, in the next few days many more of the minions will be doing the same.
    Its never their fault, always someone else’s fault.
    A bunch of irritating specimens.

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  • Asd:

    Take togethere band togethere

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  • NotMyProblem:

    The statement is so empty and hollow, I can almost hear echo. I am sure echo from other PAP’s ministers and MPs will be heard soon.

    Every incidence the finger is pointing outwards, what about the other 3 fingers?

    When Heng mentioned the past incidences, did he mentioned what happened to those responsible and how much those Ministers were earning? Heng has forgotten PAP’s ministers is paid the Milky Way’s highest salary now. Singapore was one of the 4 dragons then but now Singapore is a worm at best.

    What we have now is COI after COIs! Each COI was only to find excuses that was not used before, the rest were just cut and paste from the previous COIs. I don’t see anyone takes up the suggestion of Minister Khaw!!!

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  • oxygen:

    WHAT HAPPENED TO PEASANTS WRITING TO MINISTERS even on APOLITICAL ISSUES OF PUBLIC INTEREST and got SILENT REPLY even after persistent efforts – all politely and respectfully presented?

    Either HSK is in denial or he is unaware of real happening.

    In all fairness, some are good and responsive.

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  • Great Asia:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6Rphg_lwwM

    Across the world, people are discussing history. Here in Singapore, we have been told our version of history that is fabricated by anglophile Lee Kuan Yew.

    His crown and extremely naive son has just started a year-long angmoh worshipping event.

    In future, Singaporeans will be seen as shallow monkeys in front of the Aseanians.

    Who is Heng Swee Keat?!!!

    He just another seat warmer. And he has started to deliver highfalutin speeches even before he became the PM.

    Ha ha ha!

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  • The Other Hard Truths:

    Herein lies the root of all the problems. A defiant refusal to admit the fundamental fault…..i.e., there is no accountability at the top and a dismal state of complacency that is fueled by millions of easy dollars.

    What we need is to kick out that good-for-nothing, super-egoistic moron by the name of Ah Long. And the rest will take care of itself

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  • oxygen:

    IN MATTERS OF POLICY FLAWS, try writing to public service institutions and challenge them to facts and law applicable – DON’T BE SURPRISED THAT THEY SHUT YOU DOWN WITH BREVITY OF MOTHERHOOD PREACHING not needed and irrelevant instead of addressing issues and law perspective at hand presented to their attention.

    IF THIS IS UNTRUE, TRY SETTING UP THE PUBLIC OMBUDSMAN OFFICE and allow all contested matters to be made public by either parties AND HAVE THE OMBUDSMAN’S FINDINGS, DECISION, LAW RATIONALE APPLIED, PUBLISHED ON THE INTERNET. This is the standard of public service DOWN UNDER – open, transparent and available to public scrutiny of decision taken by bureaucrats and or Minister of relevant ministry.

    The administrative tribunals Down Under has THE LAWFUL POWER TO REVERSE EVEN THE MINISTERIAL DETERMINATION AND DECISION AND COMMAND THAT THE SAID MINISTER IN ERROR OF DECISION-MAKING COMPLY WITH THE TRIBUNAL SUBSTITUTED ORDER OR RULING – even in immigration matters between the Minister and foreigners seeking residency status.

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  • Great Asia:

    Are you a member of NTUC?

    If you are, have you ever asked yourself why you have become a member of NTUC? Are you a white collar executive?

    What’s is the purpose of NTUC?

    In its entire history, has the NTUC ever helped a hawker assistant or cleaner?

    We have been using extremely self-serving monkeys as leaders for too long.

    Ha ha ha!

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  • Great Asia:

    The Great Asia is the first person to call for Tharman to take over the PM job.

    Why?

    This is the only viable solution if we want to reform this feudal system that is devised by Lee Kuan Yew.

    With Heng Swee Keat as the next PM, for sure monkey Lee will make himself the minister mentor and continue to rule Singapore from behind the curtain.

    In the worst situation, we might start to see the 3rd generation of the Lee’s being made to become the senior management or CEO of GLCs – through “meritocracy”.

    Ha ha ha!

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  • Voter:

    Yes, where’s LHL then? Shouldnt he, as SG PM & the HIGHEST paid PM in the world, address this govt complacency rot & decay, instead of pushing to Heng to address this dirty mess?
    LHL simply wash hands, sit back enjoy show, juz waiting for the coming election & throw his PM shitty ball to Heng to handle the load?
    Our multi millionaire LHL can then still sit back relax & continue collect pay as Snr Ministr….
    Unlikely wife HC wil gv up temask top post
    Seriously, as PM of SG, with many all these mess/incidents, he, LHL, really has nothing to address, no care n concern for his own fellow citizens at all ? Pathetic PM !

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  • Will or will not?:

    Will that someone or lower rung at zaobao be getting the boot or be called to have high tea with PM, cuz PAP lost face re this truthful article?

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  • Our sg is in a big mess:

    Is something wrong with our PM? Not well..or just hiding?
    Even if he’s passing on the baton , right now he’s still being paid mil$ salary from tax payers hard work.

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  • Nato:

    So u think this trampoline man “The Great Asia is the first person to call for Tharman to take over the PM job.”.. I think this trampoline man mouth shoot faster than his ability to serve the people . This white inside dark outside is no different bananas … talk only … no action

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  • I'm halimah also Jiak Liao Bee:

    Ah heng ah, any of your PAPIGS Minister taken any accountability so far ???
    Even when 1 limping terrorist escape under your noses, your Crony Minister was still drawing his million $$$ pay.
    And with so many deaths from the Hep C fiasco, followed by the Singhealth data breach, why is your Gan still there ???
    You are just another one of them useless PAPIGS that ought to be kicked out long ago.
    We will hold you fully accountable when you take over the PM job.
    The buck stops with you.

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  • White leeches of Sg:

    Uncle really sian to read another essa-type speech (most probably written by his pps or some
    admin officer). Sound hollow, full of rhetoric and motherhood statements, no concrete actions to offer, just lame excuse after excuse, coi after coi.

    Hello, you fellas are paid highest salaries. We expect nothing less, ok? If cannot perform or deliver, then fall out. Nobody owes anybody a living.

    Utterly disappointing and disgusting lot

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  • Karma is working:

    I'm halimah also Jiak Liao Bee:
    Ah heng ah, any of your PAPIGS Minister taken any accountability so far ???
    Even when 1 limping terrorist escape under your noses, your Crony Minister was still drawing his million $$$ pay.
    And with so many deaths from the Hep C fiasco, followed by the Singhealth data breach, why is your Gan still there ???
    You are just another one of them useless PAPIGS that ought to be kicked out long ago.
    We will hold you fully accountable when you take over the PM job.
    The buck stops with you.

    With more and more shitty problems piling and plagueing our country, it won’t come as a surprise that stroke stricken bug eyes may drop dead from second episode before taking over

    Ho seh liow, Kee Chiu can then slip in. What do you think

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  • HarderTruths:

    Ownself bullshit ownself

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  • TalkAlot_ButSayLittle:

    Like giving a lecture.
    Soooo boring. Zzzzzzz.

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  • Look in the mirror first:

    PAP is always too defensive.. thats why they cant improve.
    Ever ready to fix others but cant ‘fix’ themselves.

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  • Cronyism Is The Main Problem:

    KNN!

    Talk cock like sing song. My blood boiled spending time reading through his motherhood statements after motherhood statements.

    Examples quoted by Heng Swee Kiat about the past incidents were not preventable. Today’s series of serious and critical incidents were PREVENTABLE, AVOIDABLE.

    Aloysius Pang’s life is a case in point. He died needlessly. 8 deaths in 15 months. Minister Ng Eng Hen should be held responsible. The bucket stops at him. If not, then the PM has to go. Why is he still sitting there and laughing all the way to his banks every month?

    MOH’s series of incidents, one after another, are preventable and avoidable. The Minister for Health, Gan Kim Yong, should have been removed long long ago. Why is he still there to utter “I am sorry” AGAIN? We are even more sorry to see him keeping his post without taking real responsibility.

    What Heng Swee Kiat’s talk about responsibility is for the low and middle managers, not for ministers. Get that useless Son of a Gan out of the Ministry of Health. He is growing to chubby and too fat, as can be clearly seen on his fat rosy face and fat bum and tummy. Eating too much good herbal soup, using taxpayers’ hard-earned blood, sweat and tears money to fatten himself. We know he is PM’s blue-eyed boy.

    How long have we to wait before the PM takes concrete action to remove at least two of the ministers? Is he going to protect them forever and ever ……?

    There will be a political cost in the next GE, for sure. Paper cannot hide fire!

    All the chronic illnesses (incidents) are caused by cronyism!

    KNNCCB!

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  • Bapak:

    200% agree.

    Nato:
    So u think this trampoline man “The Great Asia is the first person to call for Tharman to take over the PM job.”.. I think this trampoline man mouth shoot faster than his ability to serve the people . This white inside dark outside is no different bananas … talk only … no action

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  • ganehsk:

    HSK who decides if the anyone is culpable or wanting.

    Yes Public things now the Minsters responsible are

    So any action you want to take , PM in waiting. Sir,

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  • No sweat lah:

    The useless PM should try just STEP DOWN now…and not linger on till after GE.
    No one gonna miss him…

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  • N.Jungne:

    Aiyah even without the PAP, there’s always a last line of defece, the COI.

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  • HaraKiri Khaw:

    No-NS Penang Cow said Honourable leaders should commit HaraKiri.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtsnPl7usas
    Since the Papiggies are led by the the Dishonourable Son, all of them will not be honorable to do the right thing.
    ”It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depend on him not understanding it”…..Upton Sinclair.

    Where is your boss ?:
    After HSK defending the post, in the next few days many more of the minions will be doing the same.
    Its never their fault, always someone else’s fault.
    A bunch of irritating specimens.

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  • Regime change is the solution:

    Isn’t this a threat? GE must be close.

    What is the process to determine culpability and incompetence?

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  • How u gonna do it:

    Talk is cheap..we’ll believe u when you walk the talk.

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  • rukidding:

    This ah heng.. is just a “temporary stand in” man ….”chosen to be shot down” halfway during his tour of duty….only to be immediately “taken over” by Kee Chui!

    It is all a “planned” strategy !

    Nobody likes kee chui…so the only way to “a please” and “not rub salt”( with the public at large ),…the “best way” for kee chui to “enter the forefront without objection”…is to make him the “deputy” NOW….then “Kill” the “one infront of kee chui”….so that kee chui “automatically assumes” the “intended and planned” TOP position ( immediately, without any reason to justify or explain)…the VERY Moment they think its time to “kill off” ah heng !

    Typical Pappy style of “cheating the system” as well as “fooled” their voters and sillyzeans !

    It will happen this way!!!…Watch my words !!!

    Note: Ah Heng’s stroke was “staged”…just like ah Loong’s brain turmour !

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  • MarBowling:

    rukidding:
    February 11, 2019 at 11:55 am (Quote)
    This ah heng.. is just a “temporary stand in” man ….”chosen to be shot down” halfway during his tour of duty….only to be immediately “taken over” by Kee Chui!
    It is all a “planned” strategy !
    Note: Ah Heng’s stroke was “staged”…just like ah Loong’s brain turmour !

    Response: yeah man…totally agree!

    Look at our late beloved President Mr Ong TC who got cancer at almost the same time as Mai Hum. He passed away shortly after a couple of years of medical treatment using his OWN money, whereas MF Mai Hum who is USING taxpayers by going overseas for expensive medical treatment, is still kicking and healthy as a baby, although he always performs a bit of wayang fainting action during every ND rally speeches to show that he is REALLY SICK!

    Heng Heng is definitely following the great example of his Big Boss! Stroke until the MC of the STAGED wayang show almost had to call for the priest to perform the last rite for Heng Heng at the Hospital! Doctors and nurses attending and participating in the Wayang were told that any licking oops leaking of the Staged Wayang would subject the licker oops leaker to HEAD CHOPPING which included the whole family, relatives and clan members, macham practiced by the Emperior of ancient China!

    Think Mai Hum is adopted for HIMSELF & HENG HENG, the same STAGED Wayang strategy of ex-President of Taiwan, Chen Sweet Pain who was shot at the stomach by a sniper and STILL managed to survive and walk around like a Crab!

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  • LIONS:

    Sir,think BULLSHITTING IS UNHEALTHY N BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH.
    DO TAKE A BREAK,GO FOR GOURMET *BULLSHITTING* CLASSES in THE $wiss Alps?

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  • Perspective:

    An excellent statement (A++) but somehow there is a hollow ring to it when you look at the mess that the country is in. It is no more “if” we become slack and complacent. The present realities suggest slackness because we have gone from being the cleanest and most efficient city in the region to fast becoming a third world as the standard of public services continue to decline. Singaporeans facing competitions from FTs and trying to cope with the cost of living cannot afford to be complacent. Who are those more likely to be complacent? Those who are unafraid of losing their jobs and have millions in their reserves. Removing officials may not necessarily solve the problem but keeping them could worsen it.

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  • No choice CPF:

    Years of lies ; years of cover-up ; years of smoke screen
    Yet GE after GE ; singaporean believes the many lies and many fake screen and continue to do nothing;
    Malaysian in one full karate chop ; 60 years of UMNO gone ;
    If singaporean want to know the fate of their CPF ; take a hard Brexit and u will know
    They are all invested into companies run by management;
    Will it be a kleptocracy behind all the management – so U keep voting them to preserve yur CPF … hahaha

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  • MarBowling:

    No choice CPF
    “Years of lies ; years of cover-up ; years of smoke screen
    Yet GE after GE ; singaporean believes the many lies and many fake screen and continue to do nothing;
    Malaysian in one full karate chop ; 60 years of UMNO gone ;
    If singaporean want to know the fate of their CPF ; take a hard Brexit and u will know
    They are all invested into companies run by management;
    Will it be a kleptocracy behind all the management – so U keep voting them to preserve yur CPF … hahaha”

    Response: no need to use the karate chop. Instead Singaporean should show the Rude Extended Middle Finger to Mai Hum and Gang in the coming GE:55 years of PAPIGS gone!

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