During the debate on Singapore’s COVID-19 response motion on Monday, Pritam Singh, Secretary General of the Workers’ Party and Leader of the Opposition asked if the Government would release the full findings of the After Action Review (AAR) related to the pandemic response.
The White Paper, “Singapore’s Response to COVID-19: Lessons for the Next Pandemic”, that is being tabled in the Parliament for the motion, was prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and based on AAR, overseen by the former Head of Civil Service, Mr Peter Ho, which was aimed to analyze the government’s performance and share its findings with the public.
Mr Ho’s AAR included interviews with key participants in the crisis, both ministers and civil servants. It also incorporates the findings of various reviews by government agencies, as well as the perspectives of the private and people sectors.
Mr Singh noted in his speech that the White Paper states that it attempts “synthesise and make sense of the breadth of perspectives gathered, weave them together with the known data and facts, and offer as balanced and objective an account as possible” of the Government’s COVID-19 response.
He argued that the White Paper, which synthesizes data and perspectives from the AAR, could be considered a secondary document, leaving the public and Parliament in the dark about the full contents of the original report.
Mr Singh called for the government to release the comprehensive AAR report, stating that doing so would be in line with the motion’s objective to learn from the experiences of the past three years.
Moreover, Mr Leon Perera, WP MP for Aljunied GRC, highlighted the differences in format, detail, and rigour between the White Paper and an academic paper published in 2010 on Singapore’s H1N1 pandemic response.
He echoed Mr Singh’s request for the government to release the original AAR report, suggesting that redactions could be made to protect sensitive information related to national security or commercial interests.
Releasing the original report, according to Mr Perera, would promote transparency and enable a more informed public debate on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 86-page White Paper, released by the PMO on 8 March, is a document filled with infographics and photos of the pandemic response, accompanied by write-ups based on the findings of the AAR.
In contrast, the academic paper cited by Mr Perera is less illustrative and features more data points and straightforward assessments of the issues during the SARS pandemic, rather than the flowery language used in the White Paper released by the PMO.