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HomesingaporeHome Team officers disciplined in 131 cases of workplace difficulties over last...

Home Team officers disciplined in 131 cases of workplace difficulties over last 5 years

SINGAPORE: The Home Team departments and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) headquarters have investigated in the last five years, 310 cases of workplace discrimination, grievances and issues relating to inappropriate conduct or behaviour, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Monday (Sep 18).

Of these cases, 131 cases were substantiated and the offending Home Team officers were subject to disciplinary actions, the minister said in a written parliamentary answer. Nine cases were reported directly to the Public Service Division and the ministry headquarters.

Mr Shanmugam was responding to questions from two Members of Parliament on how Home Team officers can raise complaints about workplace difficulties.

This came after a Singapore Police Force (SPF) officer, who had made allegations of racism and workplace bullying, was found dead at the foot of a Housing Board block in Yishun in July.

Mr Shanmugam subsequently said the police would thoroughly investigate the officer’s claims that he was bullied by his superiors and subjected to ethnic slurs by his teammates. SPF also said these allegations, dating back to 2015, were previously looked into and found to be unsubstantiated.

SPF is one of seven Home Team departments under MHA. The others are the Central Narcotics Bureau, Home Team Academy, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Internal Security Department, Singapore Civil Defence Force, and Singapore Prison Service.

MHA also comprises its headquarters and three statutory boards – Home Team Science and Technology, Gambling Regulatory Authority, and Yellow Ribbon Singapore.

In his written answer on Monday, Mr Shanmugam said: “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.”

He did not specify where the offending officers worked within MHA or what kind of disciplinary action was taken against them.

Related:

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HOW MHA OFFICERS CAN REPORT DISCRIMINATION

Mr Shanmugam also laid out the “established channels” that officers can use to raise grievances or report wrongdoing.

MP Murali Pillai (PAP-Bukit Batok) asked about the avenues for Home Team officers to raise complaints about unfair discrimination and treatment against them by their superior officers without fear of recrimination against them.

MP Sylvia Lim (WP-Aljunied) asked about the avenues available for officers to address workplace difficulties if their direct supervisors were unable or unwilling to resolve them. She also asked about whistleblowing channels and the protection of whistleblowers.

In response, Mr Shanmugam pointed to the Channel for Formal Grievance Handling and the Channel for Confidential Ethical Disclosure that MHA officers can use to “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 MHA headquarters. This can be done in writing or in person, said Mr Shanmugam.

He added that there are “clear escalation guidelines and processes” to ensure 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, unit commanders and directors can inform the deputy head or head of the relevant department.

The department’s human resource division or an internal investigation body will then carry out an independent review of the case. The review findings will be reported back to the department’s deputy head or head.

If necessary, appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the Civil Service Disciplinary Framework.

If an officer is not satisfied with the investigation outcome, they can escalate the matter to higher levels in the chain of command in MHA, or to the head of the civil service, said Mr Shanmugam.

All MHA officers are briefed on these reporting channels when they join the ministry. The information is available on MHA’s intranet, and they are also periodically reminded through internal communication such as emails and at dialogues and forums with management, Mr Shanmugam added.

He said that the ministry also conducts surveys – including a 360-degree survey of supervisors every three years – during which its officers can provide anonymous comments and feedback, including on workplace issues.

He said: “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.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said 310 Home Team officers were investigated for workplace discrimination. MHA has clarified that this figure includes other forms of grievances in the workplace.

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