In the last five years, the Home Team Departments and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) headquarters have investigated 310 cases of workplace discrimination, unfair treatment or misconduct, of which 131 cases had officers subjected to disciplinary actions, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in a written reply on Sep. 18, 2023.
Nine of these complaints were reported directly to the Public Service Division and Ministry headquarters.
The minister was replying to questions raised by Members of Parliament Murali Pillai and Sylvia Lim about avenues for Home Team officers to complain about unfair treatment and what whistleblowing channels exist should the officers' superiors prove unable or unwilling to resolve the issue.
Earlier in July, a Singapore Police Force (SPF) officer, Uvaraja Gopal, left a post on Facebook alleging workplace bullying and racial discrimination before committing suicide.
Shanmugam: All allegations are treated seriously and investigated
In his response, Shanmugam said that all allegations of workplace discrimination are treated seriously by MHA and investigated.
If wrongdoing has been found, the culpable officer will be taken to task, regardless of seniority, he added.
There are also established channels for Home Team officers to raise grievances or report wrongdoing, namely the Channel for Formal Grievance Handling and the Channel for Confidential Ethical Disclosure.
The minister also pointed out that all Home Team officers can confidentially report grievances, workplace discrimination and any issues relating to inappropriate conduct or behaviour to any level of management directly.
This includes their direct supervisor, unit Commander or Director, and senior leadership of their Home Team Department and the Ministry headquarters. This can be done in writing or person, the minister said.
MHA has clear escalation guidelines
There are also clear escalation guidelines and processes to ensure that all reports of workplace discrimination, unfair treatment or misconduct are looked into objectively and expeditiously, Shanmugam highlighted.
The minister gave an example in which, depending on the nature of the reports, the unit Commanders and Directors may inform the Deputy Head of Department or the Head of Department.
An independent review of the case will then be conducted by the Department’s Human Resource Division or an internal investigation body.
The findings of this review will then be reported to the Deputy Head of Department and the Head of Department.
Where the findings are substantiated, appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the Civil Service Disciplinary Framework, Shanmugam added.
If an officer is not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, he or she can escalate the matter up to higher levels in the chain of command in the Ministry or to the Head of Civil Service, he said.
The ministry also conducts Pulse Surveys every six months, biennial Public Service Employee Engagement Surveys, and triennial 360 Degree Surveys of supervisors, during which the officers can also provide anonymous comments and feedback, including on workplace issues.
Home Team officers informed of reporting channels
All officers are also informed of these available channels when they join MHA, during onboarding sessions for new officers, and during subsequent training programmes.
There are also periodic reminders through internal communications such as emails, dialogues and forums with management.
Such information is also available on the Ministry’s intranet, he said.
Shanmugam added that at the same time, the ministry encourages responsible reporting.
"We must not let develop a culture of spurious, poison-letter allegations, which can demoralise the wider population of officers, and create a toxic environment. If a report is made in bad faith, disciplinary action may be taken against the officer who made the false report."
Top image via MHA/Facebook