Saturday, 15 June 2013

Mindef discriminates “part-time” degree officers, but nobody knows?

Captain Shaun has served as an officer in the army for about 10 years.
He signed on as a regular during his National Service. After about 3 years into his service, in 2003, he successfully applied for a Local Study Award (LSA) from Mindef. 

Graduated with “honours”, but get “pass”pay?
He graduated form a local university in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science (2nd Class Honours (Upper) and notified Mindef accordingly.
He was subsequently informed by Mindef in December 2007 that “the Scheme B Salary Emplacement Board held on 26 Oct 07 has found you suitable for emplacement onto Scheme B with effect from “1 Dec 07″.
He discovered by accident in Nov 2011 (as part of a new salary review process at that time for all officers of his grade – new MDES service for military officers)  that he was paid the salary and placed on the wrong salary scale of an emplaced officer with a pass degree, instead of that for a 2nd Class Honours (Upper) for the 4  years since his graduation in 2007.
Conservatively speaking if the shortfall in pay is about $200 plus a month, that works out to a total short-payment of about $11,000 for the 4 years.
He then sought clarification from his Unit Manpower Officer (MPO) who eventually referred the matter to the Head of Manpower (HOM).

All the correspondence
In the interest of and to facilitate total transparency of what transpired, all the email correspondence (without the names, except Captain Shaun’s) are transribed below [link]:

 As a last attempt, Captain Shaun contacted the department which administered his LSA. Below is the department’s reply:
From:                           Hd PMB
Sent:                             Tuesday, 7 February 2012 6:56 PM
To:                                ME4 Shaun Fernando
Subject:                      Pay issue / R
Hi Shaun,
Thanks for taking time off to come to JMPD this morning.
Initially, I thought we had a case to fight since there was approval for you to do the course on a part time basis. However, when I studied the issue deeper, I was not sure what was asked of MPPD back then, in 2003, when the check was done. For example, Did LTC G specifically asked that you be allowed to do the course on a part time basis even though you were awarded an LSA to do a degree course on a full time basis.
Back in 2007 when the board was held, we had already check with G if she could remember what did she ask of MPPD. She could not recall anything, and neither could we find anything in the files to show that approval was given to do the course on a part time basis.
MPPD honoured the deed which was changed (by JMPD) to show to show that the course was done at SIM Open University, by allowing you to be assessed by the Sch B Board. So, while the board cleared your emplacement, it was not to be on Honours starting pay, but on a general degree (based on subsequent checks with MPPD). There was no reason given back then, and I do not think MPPD would be able to give a reason now. But they did have an issue with doing the course part time. Of course, we do not have any documentation to show that they were indeed the ones who approved the study on a part time basis.
As such, I would not be pursuing the matter further. If there is anything else that I can do for you, do give me a call. Have a great week!”

Everybody in Mindef trying very had to help?
Comments: You can see from the above that everybody was trying very hard to help Captain Shaun on his pay issue, but after about 12 months of umpteen emails – still no conclusion!
After he resigned from the service in March 2012, he waited until November 2012 to seek advice and assistance from his MP as there was still no conclusive response from Mindef.

MP write – then response very fast?
His MP, the Right Honourable MP for Teck Ghee constituency wrote to Mindef on 28 Nov 2012. Mindef replied on 18 Dec (21  days later – wah! quite fast leh – response this time – not like the above after 12 months still nothing!)
The reply was
“We have reviewed your case and ascertained that you had been emplaced on the appropriate salary scheme throughout your regular service”.
Got discriminatory policy or not?
From the above, it would appear that there may be a discriminatory policy against officers who took a “part-time” degree course, as they will only be emplaced on the “pass degree” salary scale, instead of the “honours degree” salary scale, when they pass with “honours”.
If this is the case, why is this so?
What kind of a message are we sending to the officers – no need to study so hard because even if get “honours” – also get “pass degree” pay scale.
So, full-time course get honours get honours pay, but part-time course get honours get pass pay only?
Full-time course get pass get pass pay, and part-time course get pass get pass pay?
Where’s the logic?

How many affected, how long, how much?
How much is the difference in the 2 pay scales in a typical lifetime of an officer?
How many officers have been affected by this over the years?
According to Captain Shaun, the reason why he ended up with a course which was apparently defined by Mindef as “part-time” (which from the above email correspondence – it would appear that nobody knows – MPOs, HPO, CO, and of course Captain Shaun)

Discrminatory policy that nobody knows – until its too late?
Why didn’t the relevant department in Mindef inform Captain Shaun (or for that matter have they ever informed any other officers in its history) that a “part-time”degree course (as defined by Mindef which apparently nobody knows about this policy) would result in a lower salary scale, even if they graduate with good honours?
If officers like Shaun had been informed, why would anyone choose a part-time course?
In this case, Shaun selected a course which was approved by Mindef – which the local university decided to run classes on the average of about 4 nights a week to accomodate learning adults. So, Shaun was none the wiser to the predicament which he found himself in, when he graduated (which fortunately he discovered almost by accident  oniy 4 years later).
Shaun had initially applied for a full-time course which was validated by a foreign university (approved by Mindef), but his admission was not successful. Then, he was transferred to the subject 4-year course (also approved by Mindef in a new deed issued to Shaun)
In fact, he lost out in pay for 1 extra year, because the course he selected ended up to be 4 years, instead of the normal 3 – officers on the Local Study Award only get an allowance of $9,000 a year during the period of studies.

MOE – Your view please?
What is the view of the Ministry of Education on the above apparent “discriminatory” policy?

Universities – Your view please?
What is the view of the local universities on the above apparent “discriminatory” policy? Are part-time degrees from UNISIM worth less than a full-time degree?

“Care for soldiers”?
In this connection, according to Mindef’s core values (the last out of 7 core values) is “care for soldiers”.
Civil Service core principles?
According to the Civil Service’s 7 core principles – maybe 4 of them may well apply (or arguably was not applied well enough) in this case – “Responsiveness and Effectiveness,  People-Centricity, Mutual Courtesy and Respect, and Shared Responsibility for the Public Good”.

ASEAN Human Rights Declaration?
The subject issue of “discriminatory” policy (if indeed there is one as I have asked above) may also need to be seen with reference to and in the context of Article 7 and 9 of the ASEAN HUMAN RIGHTS DECLARATION:
“7. All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. All human rights and fundamental freedoms in this Declaration must be treated in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis.
9.In the realisation of the human rights and freedoms contained in this Declaration, the principles of impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, non-discrimination, non-confrontation and avoidance of double standards and politicisation, should always be upheld. The process of such realisation shall take into account peoples’ participation, inclusivity and the need for accountability.”

$12.3 b not enough is it?
According to the article “Hard truths about Singapore’s defence” (Straits Times, Mar 17) – “Singapore’s defence budget, at a projected $12.3 billion this year, is the biggest in South-east Asia. And it is an open secret that Singapore has one of the highest per capita defence spendings in the world, after countries such as Israel. It possesses a highly-advanced “third generation” fighting force built on the principles of “see first, think quicker, kill faster”.” – So, maybe $12.3 billion may not be enough – such that have to stinge on not paying “honours” degree officers “honours” pay! And as to “”see first, think quicker, kill faster” – how come one simple pay clarification can take 12 months without any conclusion!
May God help us – if war really comes!

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