Thursday, 5 July 2012

Delivering High Quality Public Service: The Singapore Way

Extract from the 13th Report of ARCII, " Organisational Structure of Government of India", Box 2.2

In the 1990s, Singapore had nearly 60,000 civil servants. Its civil service, until the 1960s as corrupt and as bureaucratic as any in Asia, had become something of a model.  Several long-term policies and actions, 
closely resembling NPM, seem to have contributed to this eminence (Commonwealth Secretariat, 1992; Quah, 1995):

  1. Autonomy for Agencies: Singapore has over 60 statutory boards each enjoying a great deal of autonomy. Each could decide whom to hire, promote, and fire. Each formulated and implemented operating policies within its parliamentary mandate. 
  2. Containment of corruption: An earlier anti-corruption ordinance was modified in 1980 under which the corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, formed in 1952, was given additional powers. This bureau used its powers to investigate even ministers; at least one reportedly committed suicide when threatened with an investigation.
  3. Competitive Pay: By world standards, Singapore paid its public servants well indeed. There was a long-standing policy since 1972 of reducing the gap between public and private sector remuneration.
  4. Recruitment of Highfliers: Relatively high pay scales enabled Singapore to attract and retain highfliers in its civil service. The  Singapore Public  Service  Commission tried to reinforce this by some attractive incentives. 
  5. Computerization: computerization in the government began in 1962.  Singapore’s civil service was fully computerized by 1990.  In terms of public service, this effort meant shorter waiting times for customers and faster responses.
  6. Service Improvement Unit (SIU): This unit was set up in 1991 to monitor the standard of public services and catalyze their improvement by soliciting feedback from the users of these services. SIU encouraged ministries and statutory boards to assess the quality of their services through service audits and exit interviews, and to set quality targets for achievement. 
  7. Quality circles: In the 1980s, the Government of Singapore adopted the idea of quality circles to launch nearly 8000 quality circles called WITs (work improvement teams).

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