20 December 2012

Working in People's Association

People’s Association is a statutory board with a history of more than half a century.  It was established to promote racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore.  Its mission is to build and bridge communities in achieving one people, one Singapore.

PA offers a wide range of programmes to cater to Singaporeans from all walks of life, connecting people to people, and people and government.   It has a network of 1,800 grassroots organisations, over 100 Community Clubs, five Community Development Councils, National Youth Council, National Community Leadership Institute, Outward Bound Singapore and Water-Venture.

People's Association Act stipulates that PA's chairman shall be the prime minister and its deputy chairman shall be a cabinet minister appointed by him (currently, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say).

PA seems to be a place for the ambitious.

Staff, volunteers and grassroots leaders in all constituencies have annual retreats.

Many organisations too have annual retreats for their staff to enhance bonding and discuss work plans for the coming year.  Many have their annual retreats in Singapore; some have theirs in Malaysia.

Two years ago, Punggol South constituency held its annual retreat in China.

According to reports, the retreat was self-financed.  What does self-financed mean?

Some organisations, typically religious ones, send their members, either individually or in groups, for short-term mission work overseas.  These mission workers sometimes have to raise funds from sponsors to finance their trips.  To whom do they look for financial support?  Families, friends and fellow members of their religious organisation are obvious targets.

But if it is a corporate retreat, colleagues are unlikely to provide financial support.  Nor would it be a good idea, from a corporate governance perspective, for anyone to raise funds from corporate sponsors.  It leaves participants to bear their own cost.

Some staff, volunteers or grassroots leaders will not participate in overseas retreats because they cannot afford, or do not want, to pay.  Some will go because they feel compelled or embarrassed that others may say that they are too poor or too stingy.

There is another self-financing possibility — the retreat generates revenue which is enough to offset costs.  However, I do not know enough about PA to consider whether this model works, but even if it does, it is hard work for the participants and certainly spoils the fun.

Finally, assuming PA staff are required to secure financing for their participation in overseas retreats, is the time they spend at retreats considered to be work or play (and therefore deducted from their annual leave)?

Personal Affairs
Shortly after then Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer resigned his office because he had committed a grave mistake by way of an extramarital relationship with an unnamed member of PA staff working in Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency, PA deputy chairman Lim came forward to reveal her identity.

He said that PA had deliberated at length on whether to identify the woman involved but ultimately felt they could not keep it under wraps.

Although PA did not want to add to her pain by identifying her, it recognised that the case had attracted much public attention.

PA owed it to its staff to let them know.  Otherwise, they would be speculating.  So the decision was made to inform its staff about her identity, what had happened, her resignation and the reason.

And because it would not be possible to keep an internal circular private, PA informed the general public as well.

Such logic is quite different from the logic practised by most of us.

Why do PA staff need to know?

Mr Palmer resigned his office of Speaker of Parliament presumably because he considered that his extramarital affair had tarnished the office and he did not have the moral authority to serve.  But he was Speaker of Parliament, one of the highest political offices in the land.

The woman wasn't even a member of PA's board of management.

Is there anything in People's Association Act or PA's code of ethics or code of conduct that prohibits its staff from being involved extramarital affairs, especially high profile extramarital affairs with politicians?

PA staff should know this: if any of them is involved in an extramarital affair, PA management may decide to tell its staff and the general public because it thinks that they should know.  Actually, having created a precedent, PA management may have no choice.

Do you want to work for People's Association?

Not that you are or plan to be involved in an extramarital affair, of course.

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