How can Singapore be exceptional if our public servants don’t go the extra mile for service?

I wrote about the hassle that a lady had to go through to claim her late grandmother’s CPF money. In the comments to the post, after having read the follow-up report in Straits Times that the family is going to give up bid to claim the grandma’s CPF money, I suggested that the staff of CPF Board could have helped arrange a more expeditious manner for the late grandmother’s brother to make a statutory declaration, considering the late grandmother’s brother is elderly and not really mobile. For example, the staff from CPF Board could have at least suggested to the family that they can arrange for a Justice of Peace to go to the house of the grandma’s brother for him to make a statutory declaration.

But it seemed that the staff of CPF Board didn’t even say anything about making statutory declarations. Instead, according to the reports, it was the Public Trustees Office (PTO) that “advised Ms Chan to get Madam Lau’s brother to make a statutory declaration on their relationship, either with a lawyer or at the PTO’s premises.” This suggests that staff from CPF Board asked the family to seek advice from the PTO. In other words, it seemed like the family was pushed from one agency to another. Why couldn’t staff at CPF Board help the family come up with an acceptable way to resolve the issue they had? Is it too much to ask?

In response to this line of thinking, a comment that was left on the post questioned why I thought staff from CPF Board ought to “serve them (i.e. the family of the late grandmother) hand and foot”. My question is, why not? It’s all about having a spirit of excellence isn’t it? In his National Day Rally speech in 2005, PM Lee spoke about the need for Singapore to build a strong service culture. He reminded us of that need recently as he marked the 10th anniversary of the Go-The-Extra-Mile for Service Movement. In that speech, he cited the Japanese who ” take pride in serving each other. Even if you buy just one item in a 100 Yen shop, the shop assistant puts in her best effort to wrap up the item beautifully!”

If we want to build up a strong service culture, then the first place to start MUST be the public service. We need to have public servants who will go the extra mile in serving members of the public. We need to put in systems and structures that allow our public servants to go the extra mile in serving members of the public. We need to reward public servants who go the extra mile in serving members of the public. Do we have those yet? In some places, yes. We certainly have many teachers who go out of their way to make a positive impact on their students. But can we do better? The answer, as shown by the case of CPF Board, surely must be an emphatic “YES!”

Why? Because the consequences of us not doing that will be disastrous. Singapore must be exceptional to survive. That is an exhortation by PM Lee. That is something many Singaporeans will agree with. If that is the case, then surely our public servants must take pride in their work and be exceptional in serving members of the public, right? Not just have a tidak apa attitude. Which is most likely the reason that led to some of the lapses in the SGH case (e.g. carts and trolleys that were supposed to be cleaned and disinfected before they were pushed into preparation rooms ending up not being cleaned and disinfected properly, inadequate hand hygiene observed among some staff when they were performing procedures, leaving blood stains on walls).

I hope that the SGH case will be a wake up call for our public servants to up their game. To truly inculcate a spirit of excellence in the service and a sense of pride in their work. So that Singapore can truly be exceptional.

[Featured Image: Logo of the Go-the-Extra-Mile for Service (GEMS Up) Movement from Medallion.sg]

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