A very unfortunate case of a police officer committing suicide on the basis that he was discriminated against led me to inquire whether there are secure and reliable avenues available for Home Team officers who wish to voice their grievances against their superiors without fear of facing retaliatory actions or any form of recrimination. My PQ and the Minister for Home Affairs’ answer are set out below.
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Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Home Affairs what avenues there are for Home Team officers to raise complaints about unfair discrimination and treatment against them by their superior officers without fear of recrimination against them.
Mr K Shanmugam: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) takes a firm stance against workplace discrimination. All allegations of such nature are treated seriously and investigated. If we find wrongdoing, the culpable officers will be taken to task, regardless of seniority.
There are established channels for officers to raise grievances or report wrongdoing, namely the Channel for Formal Grievance Handling and the Channel for Confidential Ethical Disclosure. All MHA 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 in person.
There are also clear escalation guidelines and processes to ensure that all reports of workplace discrimination, unfair treatment or misconduct, are looked into objectively, professionally and expeditiously. For example, 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 review findings will be reported to the Deputy Head of Department and the Head of Department. Where substantiated, appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the Civil Service Disciplinary Framework.
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.
All officers are informed of these reporting 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 and at dialogues and forums with management. This information is also available on the Ministry’s intranet.
MHA also conducts six-monthly Pulse Surveys, biennial Public Service Employee Engagement Surveys, and triennial 360 Degree Surveys of supervisors, during which the officers are able to also provide anonymous comments and feedback, including on workplace issues. Every piece of feedback is taken seriously, and investigated where necessary.
In the last five years, the Home Team Departments and Ministry headquarters have investigated 310 cases, nine of which were reported directly to the Public Service Division and Ministry headquarters. 131 cases were substantiated, and the offending officers were subjected to disciplinary actions.
At the same time, we encourage 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.