Unequal burden of responsibility between senior management and the rank and file the cause?
Lianhe Zaobao published an editorial on Feb. 1 calling for corrective measures to restore the public’s confidence following several lapses by public service providers and government agencies.
In order for the public’s previously high confidence in these organisations to be restored, the editorial said that the deeper root causes of these lapses must be studied and reflected upon.
• Zaobao listed out several high profile lapses in recent memory:
• Ministry of Health’s (MOH) HIV Registry data being leaked affecting 16,600 individuals;
• The SingHealth hacking, the biggest ever hacking incident in Singapore’s history, that led to the theft of 1.5 million patient records;
• Five deaths in the last 18 months during Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training;
• Tan Tock Seng Hospital personnel failing to properly sterilise dental equipment used on patients;
• A Hepatitis C outbreak in Singapore General Hospital due to gaps in infection prevention and control practices;
• The “deteriorating” quality of SingPost’s service, which includes the recent incident of a postman throwing away letters;
• Increasing frequencies of large scale power outages;“Improper” management of SMRT which led to several major breakdowns, death of maintenance crew, and flooding of a tunnel.
Zaobao questioned where it all went wrong for each of the lapses.
For the SingHealth hack, it noted a key contributing factor was that the cybersecurity personnel involved in the case lacked knowledge, resources, and did not take appropriate actions in response to the hack.
Despite convening COIs, treating each training death with gravitas, and implementing new safety measures, Zaobao said that lapses still recurred in the SAF and questioned whether there was a deeper problem associated with attitude.
Zaobao said that despite SingPost’s explanation that its delivery problems were due to the year-end online shopping glut, the fact that postmen were throwing letters away suggests that there was obviously other problems.
Zaobao also said the same for power outages — that despite official explanation, there must be other reasons for lapses.
Summing up all the problems, Zaobao said that these lapses were not accidental, but more possibly to do with the deterioration of our work ethic and a culture of “muddling along” taking root.
With society becoming too comfortable, people have become complacent, unwilling to improve the system, choose to ignore what’s happening outside, and have become too self-satisfied.
As a result, they get caught by surprise when problems arise, Zaobao added.
Who’s to blame for the “muddling along” culture?
Zaobao said that the problem may also be due to how rewards and punishments are meted out.
It said that punishing the rank and file, while senior management takes little to no responsibility, reinforces negative attitudes and leads to a collective mentality of not taking their work seriously.
If this mentality is allowed to take root in Singapore, it would be disastrous, according to Zaobao.
It called for Singaporeans to not be complacent and prideful. And it also asked for everyone from the man on the front-lines to members of senior management to be more responsible with their work.
It concluded that once the pioneer generation of Singaporeans have aged and faded away, it is up to the next generations of Singaporeans to keep the Singapore success story going and maintain its “golden” reputation.