21 October 2007

'Optional retirement a privilege, not a right'


Q: Some civil servants are said to have been given preferential treatment when they applied for optional retirement while others were rejected without a valid reason. How does a civil servant get to go on optional retirement?

A: All civil servants are allowed to apply for optional retirement at the age of 40, subject to the recommendation of his head of department.

However, for certain services, departmental heads must look into additional considerations.

For doctors and nurses, who are classified under critical services, the optional retirement age is 47.
(Those under critical services are mostly from the health service, where there is a shortage of doctors and specialists. There is no specific list and may include any civil servant who is a specialist in a particular field not easily replaced).

However, optional retirement is a privilege and not a right. It is up to the discretion of the government to decide.

I must emphasis that there is no discrimination and the departmental head will decide based on certain criteria.

It will be based on how critical the person (who has asked for optional retirement) is to the department, can the department find a suitable replacement, etc.

All applications will be given due consideration. Of course, the reason the person has asked for optional retirement will also be taken into account.

Q: It has been reported that the PSD is expected to issue a directive not to consider promotions for study loan defaulters who are serving in the civil service. Has this been done?

A: We have begun to do this. Defaulters are considered as employees who go against the basic ethics of employment and it is only fair that they are not considered for promotions.

Not paying their loans is equivalent to a breach of trust. You must pay what you owe. They must understand that we need the money to roll.

If they do not repay their loans, the fund gets depleted and this is not fair to others who need the money. We cannot let these defaulters deprive other deserving applicants.

Q: On unpaid PSD loans, what is the amount owing and what are the steps initiated by the PSD to recover this amount?

A: I don't have the figures at this point, but I can assure you that the number of defaulters has decreased. We are flexible. We understand that many face financial difficulties and are unable to pay the scheduled amounts.

We are reasonable as long as they pay. They can pay us online or through their banks.

We are also prepared to re-negotiate the terms to make it easier for them to pay.

Q: There were reports that there were about 100,000 vacancies in the civil service which are yet to be filled. What is the present status of these vacancies?

A: There are vacancies in the government which need to be filled.

This is an ongoing process and interviews are frequently held to fill up these vacancies.

However, the problem is that sometimes candidates who come for interviews are not well prepared.

That is why they do not make it through and when we cannot find a suitable candidate, the position remains vacant.

Some vacancies are only filled through promotions and this depends on whether there are suitable candidates.

Candidates who are called for interviews should make an attempt to prepare themselves and not take these interviews lightly.

There is always good response for jobs in the civil service and those called for interviews must appreciate this opportunity and do their best.

Q: The PSD has said that the retirement age for employees in the public sector may be further extended (retirement age has been extended by a year to 56). Is there any development on this?

A: We have done our study and submitted our recommendation to the prime minister. He has yet to inform us of his decision.

Q: Is there any truth to claims that many civil servants take up part-time jobs to supplement their income? What is the PSD's stand on this?

A: Civil servants should not take up part-time jobs. This is very clear. Especially now with the salary revision, we do not see why they should want to take up part-time jobs.

There is a ruling that if any civil servant wants to work part-time, he or she must get permission from the head of department.

The head must take into account whether there would be a conflict of interest and whether the civil servant would be able to cope.

Q: Do you have any message for civil servants out there?

A: My message is simple -- do your best and together we can make the country a better place to live in.

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