Attorney-General’s Chambers Committee of Supply 2017 – Cuts by WP MPs and NCMPs

(Delivered in Parliament on 3 March 2017)


Staffing and Culture of Attorney-General’s Chambers – Sylvia Lim

AGC’s establishment headcount this year will be at an all-time high of 594, which compared to the actual headcount 7 years ago is a 42% jump.  It would be enlightening to know why so many more officers are needed now compared to 7 years ago, where these additional headcounts have been allocated, and whether this trend will continue and why.

Next, the Mission Statement of the AGC reads as follows:

“Serving Singapore’s interests and upholding the rule of law through sound advice, effective representation, fair and independent prosecution and accessible legislation”.

There are two further observations I wish to make.

First, we see senior AGC officers recruited from the private sector, such as from large law firms.   I agree that AGC can benefit from private sector talent who inject fresh perspectives and updated market knowledge.  However, do such persons receive any briefings to re-orientate their mindsets to function as public officers rather than private sector lawyers, from serving a client to serving the public?  A private sector lawyer may be briefed to go all out to protect his client’s interests, but an AGC officer should not simply go all out to ensure the government wins in court, but should serve Singapore’s interests by promoting justice.  It is common these days to see AGC officers refer to government bodies in court as their “client”, and in correspondence as well – this is, to me, disturbing.

Secondly, the AGC as an organ of state should be independent and ready to rein in the government if it acts unlawfully or is abusing its power.  To this end, I am most concerned about the recent appointment of a former MP as the Deputy AG.  This is not a personal attack on the new DAG nor his legal competence.  But it is my view that filling a Constitutional post in an organ of state with a party politician is not ideal, as it carries a real risk of undermining public confidence in the AGC’s stated mission of fair and independent prosecutions.  And it is a risk that is best avoided.