Performance Measurement and Budgetary Reform in the Singapore Civil Service

By Jones, David S. | Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview
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Performance Measurement and Budgetary Reform in the Singapore Civil Service

Jones, David S., Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management

ABSTRACT: The article examines two recent and related reforms in the Singapore Civil Service: performance measurement and a new system of budgeting, known as Budgeting For Results, which is based upon performance measurement. It first examines the different types of performance measurement and the range of performance indicators used in the Singapore Civil Service. The article then considers Budgeting For Results, under which budget allocations are linked to the performance of Departments/Agencies as measured by the different types of indicator. Emphasis is given to the way Budgeting For Results, by linking budget allocations to performance, provides the necessary rewards to spur greater performance. The central argument is that reforms designed to ensure better performance in government bureaucracy require incentives to be effectively implemented. In conclusion the article examines the ways in which improvements could be made in the measurement of performance and in budgetary allocations based upon performance.


In recent years, increased attention has been given to the measurement and evaluation of performance in the Singapore Civil Service. Much work has been undertaken on how best this can be done. Departments in the Civil Service have in consequence developed a range of performance indicators to reflect the extent of their output volume, service quality, efficiency and effectiveness, and have set yearly targets based on those indicators. It was recognized that for performance measurement and target setting to be an effective spur to performance, reforms in the system of budgetary management were required. These reforms were introduced over the last few years, denoted under the umbrella title of Budgeting For Results (BFR). Their purpose was to create a framework of budgetary management that links budget allocation to performance. This would provide the incentives for Departments/ Agencies, subject to performance measurement, to achieve higher levels of performance. Such reforms, influenced by examples from the United Kingdom and New Zealand, were central to the general aim to import into government administration the practices of management of the private sector, commonly referred to as "managerialism" (Singh, 1998; Swiss, 1991; Lu, 1998a).

This article will examine the various types of performance measurement that have been undertaken in the Singapore Civil Service and how targets are set based on those measurements. The article will then consider the various features of BFR as a new framework ol budgetary management. It will emphasize how BFR provides incentives under a system of performance measurement for Departments/Agencie,, to achieve higher levels of performance. Lastly, the possible challenges and problems that face performance measurement and BFR in the foreseeable future will be considered.


The Civil Service in Singapore comprises the central instrument of government administration. It consists of 15 Ministries, sub-divided into Divisions and Departments. In addition to the Civil Service, there are 40 Statutory Boards, set up under a special Act of Parliament and discharging specialist and commercial functions of government administration. Many Statutory Boards are funded totally or partly by the Government, whilst others are fully self-financing. Most Departments of the Civil Service, as well as government-funded Statutory Boards, have now been accorded the status of so-called Autonomous Agencies for operational and budgeting purposes, as will be discussed below (although they are still called Departments or Statutory Boards).

The number of permanent staff in the Civil Service in FY 2000/01 was just over 61,000, with a further 12,000 posts remaining unfilled (MOF, 2001).1 In addition, 40,000 staff were employed by Statutory Boards. The personnel of the Civil Service are classified into 1) general services engaged in general administration; and 2) professional, departmental and uniformed services (MOF, 1994).

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