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131 Home Team officers disciplined in last 5 years following whistleblowing cases in Singapore

Over the last five years, 131 Home Team officers were disciplined following investigations into 310 cases by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Home Team Departments, including nine directly reported to the Public Service Division and MHA headquarters.

This was revealed by Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in response to inquiries from MPs Sylvia Lim and Murali Pillai who asked about whistleblowing avenues available to uniformed services officers within the Ministry to address workplace challenges if their immediate supervisors are unable or unwilling to assist.

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SINGAPORE: In the past five years, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Home Team Departments have diligently investigated a total of 310 cases, with nine of them being directly reported to the Public Service Division and the MHA headquarters.

Responding to Parliamentary Questions filed by Sylvia Lim, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC, and Murali Pillai, MP for Bukit Batok SMC, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (18 Sept) revealed that out of these cases, 131 were substantiated, leading to disciplinary actions against the responsible officers.

Murali Pillai sought clarity on the avenues available for Home Team officers to voice complaints regarding unfair treatment by their superiors without fearing reprisals.

Ms Lim, on the other hand, inquired about the avenues available to uniformed services officers within the Ministry to address workplace challenges if their immediate supervisors are unable or unwilling to assist.

She also raised questions about whistleblowing channels and the assessment of their effectiveness.

MHA “takes a firm stance against workplace discrimination”

In response, Mr Shanmugam affirmed that 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. ”

Mr Shanmugam assured that established channels for officers to report grievances or wrongdoing are readily available, include 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.”

To ensure objectivity and professionalism in handling reports, clear escalation guidelines and processes are in place. Depending on the nature of the reports, unit Commanders and Directors may involve the Deputy Head of Department or the Head of Department.

“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.”

Accessibility of escalation channels for officers unhappy with investigation outcomes

Mr Shanmugam added that should an officer remain dissatisfied with the outcome of an investigation, they have the option to escalate the matter to higher levels within the Ministry’s chain of command or to the Head of Civil Service.

These reporting channels are communicated to officers during their onboarding, reiterated through training programs, and reinforced via internal communications.

“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.”

Mr Shanmugam added that 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. ”

However, Minister Shanmugam cautioned against irresponsible reporting, emphasizing the need to avoid fostering a culture of baseless allegations that can harm the morale 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. ”

Tragic loss of Singapore police officer 

In July this year, Singapore was shocked by the tragic death of Sgt. Uvaraja S/0 Gopal from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) after he took his own life, raising serious questions regarding the welfare and treatment of Home Team officers.

Following Sgt. Uvaraja’s tragic death, a distressing narrative on Facebook emerged via his last Facebook post,  depicting a harrowing work environment characterized by racial prejudice, favouritism, bullying, and blatant mismanagement at the Ang Mo Kio North Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC).

Mr Shanmugam has previously weighed in on the situation stating, “I have asked SPF to investigate the matter thoroughly. We will get to the bottom of it. And be accountable. We have a clear policy of non-discrimination.”

“All officers are entitled to be treated fairly. SPF as an organisation is committed to that principle. We will investigate the facts.” said the Home Affairs Minister.

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