Singapore’s Peter Ong calls on future leaders to foster collaboration
The head of Singapore’s civil service Peter Ong has called on the government’s future leaders to work across departmental boundaries in order to better address the increasingly complex challenges the state island faces.
Addressing the 120 officials who have been accepted into the Public Service Leadership Programme last week, Ong said that “as the challenges we face become more complex, single agency solutions will become less adequate.”
Ong said that the government has already made efforts to improve coordination across ministries, but added that for the public service to “function as one, we need to truly collaborate.”
Collaboration, he said, “occurs when agencies come together to jointly develop solutions to support shared whole-of-government objectives.” This, he added, “may involve trade-offs for some agencies, but as a whole we will be better off.”
The leadership programme, which prepares graduates, entrants from other sectors as well as candidates from within the service, for senior positions in economy building, infrastructure and environment, security, social affairs and central administration, also includes “sectoral inter-agency projects,” Ong said.
These, Ong told his audience, “help you understand the trade-offs that need to be made across different agencies, and how to work better across them.” He said that members of the programme “should take every chance to participate in them, and create value beyond your agency and across your sector.”
Earlier this year, Ong told Global Government Forum about other methods his government uses to encourage cross-departmental collaboration: every year, it sets aside a certain amount of money – a proportion of additional revenue gained through a growing GDP – to go to a central pool called the ‘Reinvestment Fund’.
This fund is used to fund new programmes after a competitive bidding process, which favours programmes and policies that require departments to work across the whole of government.
The finance ministry also biennially coordinates the Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review, which provides a report on the strategies, programmes and resources that are employed by all public agencies to achieve these outcomes.