Mr Clarence Yeo, Commissioner ICA,
Home Team Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. I am happy to join all of you today at ICA’s Workplan Seminar, which also marks the 10th anniversary of ICA. We gather here today to celebrate the good work that ICA has done to safeguard Singapore’s border security over the past 10 years, and look ahead to the future.
ICA’s Achievements Amid Challenges
2. ICA was set up on 1 April 2003 through the merger of the former Singapore Immigration & Registration and the Customs & Excise Department, against the backdrop of a volatile global security landscape.
As the single national border control authority, ICA has sought to provide a seamless, integrated and well-coordinated border security regime.
3. Following the merger, ICA streamlined the work processes and reorganised the functional areas at the checkpoints. It also developed new and specialised capabilities in border security and identification, such as analysis of security sensitive materials and radiographic image analysis of cargo vehicles. Since 1 July 2012, ICA has taken over the investigation and associated enforcement functions against the harbouring of illegal immigrants and employment of illegal workers, bringing about greater synergy and better coordination. Over the last decade, ICA has responded effectively to new demands and operating challenges arising from the expansion of existing infrastructure and development of new facilities, such as the Marina Bay Cruise Centre and Changi Airport Terminal 3.
4. Today, ICA manages 25 major entry/exit points and customs stations around Singapore. Our borders are among the busiest in the world, with some 500,000 people crossing our borders every day. Last year alone, ICA cleared some 196 million people travelling in and out Singapore. This was an increase of 65% since ICA first started operations 10 years ago.
5. ICA has also stepped up its enforcement efforts. Last year, it foiled more than 80,000 contraband cases. ICA also arrested 690 illegal immigrants and close to 1900 overstayers in 2012, the lowest since 2003. The decrease in the number of people arrested can mean two things. First, it can mean that fewer people have transgressed the law, or it can mean that we have not been working hard enough to arrest offenders. While we can never be sure of the actual number of illegal immigrants, ICA came up with a very innovative way of estimating the population of overstayers in Singapore. This formula provides us with a way of assessing how well our inland enforcement is doing, and a good indication of whether a decrease in the number of arrests is good or bad. In this case, the sustained tough enforcement and proactive public education against illegal immigrants and overstayers have resulted in a steady decline in the number of illegal immigrants and overstayers in Singapore.
6. ICA has done well in balancing its security role while delivering good customer service to both Singaporeans and visitors. Many of us would have experienced the convenience when applying for and collecting our Singapore passports. Last year, ICA ranked first in the Airport Service Quality Global Ranking in Courtesy and Helpfulness administered by Airports Council International, which is the global trade representative of the world’s airports. As Commissioner has just mentioned, ICA Airport Command won Changi Airport’s inaugural ‘Service Partner of the Year’ in February this year in recognition of its efforts to motivate its officers to provide exemplary service.
Preparing for the Future
7. The number of people coming through our checkpoints has increased by 65% since ICA first started, but the number of ICA staff strength has also increased in tandem. The growth in staff strength from 3,300 10 years ago to 5,400 today is not just more people doing the same type of work. Instead, we have needed more people to do different types of more challenging work since the increased requirements arising from 11 September 2001. But there are limits to how many more staff ICA can hire, in light of our ageing and shrinking population, which will result in a tighter labour market. New facilities such as Changi Airport’s T4, the Rapid Transit System between Johor Baru and Singapore as well as the high-speed rail link between KL and Singapore will mean more people coming in and out of Singapore. ICA cannot simply continue to do its work in the same way, and scale up its operations in a linear fashion by hiring more and more people. Instead, ICA must continue to deploy innovative solutions, develop the potential of its officers, and work closely with the community in order to handle the increasing workload, rising public expectations and more complex security landscape.
Deploying Innovative Solutions
8. First, ICA must continue exploring, innovating and integrating new technology into its operations to help its officers to do their work more efficiently and effectively. In 2006, ICA implemented the enhanced-Immigration Automated Clearance System (e-IACS) which speeds up immigration clearance for Singaporeans, PRs and long-term pass holders without the need for a separate access card, while allowing ICA officers to verify the traveller’s identity more accurately and definitively. In 2012, about 80% of Singaporean travellers using the immigration passenger halls were cleared through eIACs which has stringent passport checks, but provides faster clearance, providing time savings and convenience for travellers. These unmanned stations have helped ICA to cope with a larger throughput, without adding much manpower. More importantly, this is the kind of service and convenience that ICA provides to ordinary Singaporeans.
9. To reinvent checkpoint operations, ICA will be developing an Integrated Operations Centre to enhance its Command, Control and Communication (C3) capabilities at the checkpoints. The Centre will use analytics and other advanced technologies to enhance the situational awareness of ICA officers on the ground, and improve coordination of operations at checkpoints, and optimise resources. The Centre will also be linked with other Home Team Departments to provide a coordinated and timely response to incidents at the checkpoints. ICA does not work on its own. The Home Team agencies work together and coordinate their activities so that we can collectively work better to achieve our individual and collective missions.
10. ICA has also used technology innovatively to meet the needs of its customers better. In July 2011, I had officially opened the eLobby@ICA. Last year, more than 200,000 transactions were made through these self-service kiosks. Members of the public have found the self-service kiosks in the eLobby user-friendly and convenient, as transactions such as passport and visa applications and payments can be completed in a matter of minutes.
11. Currently, Singaporeans can already collect their passports or identity cards from selected SingPost outlets. Today, I am happy to launch iCollect, which provides added convenience by allowing applicants to collect their identity documents, without having to queue up at ICA’s customer service counters. iCollect uses technology which can verify a person’s facial features and fingerprints to establish a person’s identity before dispensing the documents. For a start, Singaporeans can collect their new Singapore Biometric Passport via iCollect. At a later stage, this service will be extended to other identity documents such as Identity Cards and Long Term Pass cards.
12. Building on ICA’s experience in offering electronic services, ICA is looking to offer mobile services, given the widespread use of smartphones and other mobile devices in Singapore. This will offer more choices to the public. ICA will also be exploring how to redesign future Service Centres, to provide a more seamless, customer-centric experience. Efficiency and productivity can be improved on two levels. One level is what you do within the job that is given to you. This allows us to do our work better individually. However, we also need to think about our work environment - the way our work is organised as a team. Often, system efficiency is not within the direct control of individuals, but requires the team to think collectively on how to work better as a team.
Developing the Potential of Our Officers
13. What ICA has done would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of its 5,400 officers, led by a strong leadership team.
14. ICA has undertaken innovative approaches to develop the potential of its officers. ICA has introduced experiential learning and game-based learning, which help to make learning more exciting and dynamic. This in turn helps officers to better internalise the knowledge and skills, and to enhance their competencies.
15. Besides undergoing job-specific training, ICA officers can also gain exposure to cross-departmental training, including through the Home Team Advanced Course. Such cross-departmental training also helps to foster greater understanding and collaboration among Home Team officers.
16. We also need to give our officers more learning and career development opportunities to realise their potential. Hence, ICA has recently implemented the ICA Specialist Capability and Leadership Enhancement Programme, or iSCALE in short. iSCALE will facilitate the early identification of promising ICA Specialists and provide them with developmental opportunities. Identified officers will undergo more developmental programmes and be involved in cross-functional projects. Officers will be deployed to postings that expose them to different areas of work, and validate their potential to take on bigger roles. Non-graduate officers will also be given opportunities to be sponsored for university studies.
17. To motivate officers and align ICA’s practices with other Home Team departments, ICA will be introducing its own Service Medals this year. The ICA Service Medals will recognise ICA officers for their good conduct, consistent performance and loyal service to the organisation. The ICA Service Medals and Clasps will be awarded to ICA officers after 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 years of service.
Strengthening Community Partnerships
18. Beyond the Home Team, community partnerships also play a role in helping ICA to accomplish its mission. I am glad to know that a group of some 100 dedicated volunteers serve as ICA’s Ambassadors to help ICA reach out to the community. Among them, are teachers, taxi drivers, businessmen, retirees, and grassroots leaders. They have helped to educate Singaporeans, senior citizens, youths and students, foreign workers, regarding the importance of border security, and helped to prevent the public from unknowingly providing shelter to immigration offenders. These Ambassadors also act as ICA’s advocates on the stringent checks at the border checkpoints to ensure Singapore’s safety and security. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of them for their contributions.
19. ICA officers have worked hard to achieve its mission of ensuring Singapore’s border security since it was set up in 2003. Building on the strong foundation that ICA has built over the last 10 years, I look forward to even greater contributions from ICA, its leadership team and its dedicated officers, to keep Singapore safe and secure for all of us.
20. Let me congratulate ICA on its 10th Anniversary, and wish ICA every success for many more years to come. Thank you.