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04 Feb 2019
Movement for change
Suggestion View - 288
Leaders should be responsible and accountable

We need our corporate and government leaders to be more responsible and accountable.

They have to come forward when big mistakes occur and tell the public transparently and honestly the cause of the mistakes and what actions will be taken to address them. 

What are some of these mistakes? Here are some big mistakes that occurred in recent years:

a) Frequent breakdown of MRT train services
b) Death of NS men and reservists during training
c) Mistakes in treatment of patients in hospitals
d) Hacking into the SingHealth database.

When these mistakes occur, the response of the government is to call a committee of inquiry. The hearing of the COI takes several months . A report is finally produced, but it does not appear to do much to deal with the problem. 

What is the alternative approach? How can the top person  be more responsible or accountable?

I do not suggest that the minister or chief executive commit harakiri or that they should resign their office, as has often happened in other countries.

However, I like to see the top person address the public over this issue. I like to see that person be honest and transparent in telling the public what had happened and what to do about it. 

Often, the information given to the public is vague and there is suspicion that some important information is hidden. Many people suspect that the people involved are trying to cover up some embarrassing mistakes. 

Sometimes, the excuse is "state secret". This was used to hide some key information about the recent hacking of the SingHealth database.
 
It is not acceptable to give a promise of "we will do better in the future". Often, this is an excuse to close the matter. There is lack of accountability and lack of taking responsibility.

Why is it important for the top people to be involved in taking charge of this matter? Often, the big mistake, which led to harmful consequences, are the outcome of the government or corporate policies set at the highest level. 

The junior level staff do not have the authority to changes these policies. In most cases, they are even afraid to bring up the issue, as the current policies are considered to be sacrosanct. 

It is only the top people who can change the policies when they realized that the outdated policies are the cause of the problem. If they are not involved, they will never realize it.

It is a mistake to think that senior people can sit in the ivory tower and decide on recommendations put forward by junior staff. 

In most great corporations or governments, the top people are hands on, and on in touch with the people on the ground and the customers. 

We need to change our leadership culture, for Singapore to move forward. 

Tan Kin Lian




 


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