Guidelines on Purpose, Duration, Process and Substance of Public Consultations by Government Agencies

Parliamentary Question, 4 June 2020

https://www.reach.gov.sg/participate/public-consultation

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (a) in each of the last five years, how many public consultations launched by the Government were (i) two weeks or shorter (ii) more than two weeks and less than one month and (iii) more than one month; (b) how does the agency decide the duration of the public consultation; © whether the Government will ensure that all public consultations run for no shorter than one month to allow sufficient time for organisations and individuals to consult adequately and provide higher-quality responses; and (d) whether the Government will issue a Code of Practice for all agencies to adopt regarding the purpose, duration, process and substance of public consultations.

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: The Government uses the REACH website to seek views from members of the public across a range of issues. From 2016 to 2020, the REACH website hosted a total of 113 public consultations for new policies and draft legislation. Fifty-eight of these consultations lasted from between two weeks to one month, and 53 lasted more than one month.

However, these consultations published on REACH’s website represent only a slice of our overall engagement efforts. The Government engages and partners the public and stakeholders in many other ways, such as through dialogues, people-private-public (3P) committees, and focus group discussions. Recent major efforts include SGFuture (2015 -2016), which provided a platform for Singaporeans to discuss their hopes and dreams for the nation and to embark on their own projects, the Committee on the Future Economy (2017) that convened industry leaders to make recommendations for Singapore’s economic growth, and public consultation on the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 (2018). The engagement mode must be fit-for-purpose, and so its design, duration, and target audience will vary according to the policy issue at hand.

Ms Ong asked if there will be a Code of Practice for public consultations. I agree with Ms Ong that we need to continually improve in how we engage the public. I am pleased to inform Ms Ong that the Public Service has many on-going efforts to level up agencies’ and officers’ engagement capabilities. We offer a suite of training programmes and resources that distill the principles and best practices of public engagement, and we constantly enhance these as we learn from experience and external experts. There are also field guides and digital tools to help agencies carry out engagements that best meet their objectives, and ensure a meaningful experience for their stakeholders.

Over the years, the Government has moved beyond just consulting, to partnering Singaporeans to co-create and co-deliver solutions for a better Singapore. This was reinforced when Deputy Prime Minister launched the Singapore Together movement in June 2019. Today, we have even more avenues for citizens to be involved in designing policies and innovating new solutions. In the past year, the Recycle Right Citizens’ Workgroup (2019), and the SG Youth Action Plan (2019) have demonstrated the power of citizens and Government working together for a common cause. Our COVID-19 experience has also seen many examples of citizen and community groups stepping forward to partner the Government, to strengthen our healthcare system by volunteering, care for migrant workers, and rally Singaporeans’ spirits in these challenging times.

Singapore Together is a new model of governance where Government, community and businesses partner each other, to build our future Singapore, together. This is especially important now. Only by working together, united in purpose, will we emerge from this COVID-19 situation stronger as a nation. I invite all my Parliamentary colleagues to join us in this Singapore Together movement.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

Follow Anthea Ong on her public page at www.facebook.com/antheaonglaytheng

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.

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