28 April 2015
WHEN I joined the public service in 1970, Mr Lee Kuan Yew already had 11 years to work on transforming the public service which he inherited from the British to one which better suited an independent Singapore.
There was already a strong ethos of incorruptibility.
I recently met Mr David Rivkin, the president of the International Bar Association, who asked how our ethos of zero-tolerance for corruption was imparted to, and sustained in, the public service. I told him there had been no training classes or brainwashing sessions.
But public servants watched and followed the example shown by our political masters. We were incorruptible because they were incorruptible. We saw that they lived simple, frugal and unostentatious lives and dedicated themselves totally to nation-building and improving the lives of Singaporeans. All the older public servants who worked closely with our pioneer generation political leaders will have stories to tell about their frugal habits. To people like Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Dr Goh Keng Swee, there was no such thing as work-life balance. Work was life, and life was work.
For public servants, the national narrative of ensuring Singapore’s survival was also very powerful and very inspiring to anyone who looked for meaning and purpose in his career. We also saw how the law against corruption was applied to all, regardless of position, by the CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau). So we were motivated by the exemplary conduct set by our bosses and the inspiring goals they set out, and, at the back of our minds, we were restrained by fear. Money as a form of incentive played no role then.
RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 28/04/2015