Singapore: Corruption Scandal in Least Corrupt Nation

Over the Chinese New Year, the news broke that the heads of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) are being investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), sparking plenty of conversation about corruption in a country that has been consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt in the world.

Director of the CNB, Ng Boon Gay (pictured right), was arrested on December 19, while Chief of SCDF, Peter Lim (pictured left), was arrested on 4 January 2011. Both men are currently out on bail, pending further investigations. They are being replaced by senior assistant commissioner of police Ng Ser Song and Assistant Civil Defence commissioner Eric Yap respectively.

@skyline2527#SCDF and #CNB heads suspended and under investigation. Happy new year indeed to these two.#Singapore #SG

Occupy Singapore observes that this news has completely undermined the government's justification of high salaries:

@occupysg: The reason of paying more to prevent corruption just became irrelevant. #SCDF #CNB

It has been reported that the two are being investigated for “serious personal misconduct”, allegedly involving a married senior IT executive. However, the identity of this woman has not been established, and there have been contradictory reports, as Gwee Li Sui observes on Facebook:

How to reconcile the 联合晚报 and The Straits Times accounts: [1] There are 2 IT women. [2] While married in her 30s, the IT woman was petite, meek, and sweet. In her 40s now, she is divorced and vivacious, wearing heels that make her look tall. [3] One or both accounts are dubious.

Mike Loh urges the authorities and investigators to come clean with the public, and let everyone know what is going on:

I know what dad would say, “Rule Number One: Never treat your citizens like they are idiots. Never practice Mushroom Management.”

Huh? Mushroom Management, what the fuck is that?

“Oh,” dad would say, “it means ‘keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit.’”

Lucky Tan highlights newer and more subtle instances of corruption, which may not be as easy to investigate and regulate as straightforward bribery:

In the current case, these top officers appeared to have succumbed to lure of women and allowed a local IT supplier to circumvent standard procurement procedures. The same could have happened if an unhealthy relationship is formed, say, by  the supplier routinely hiring  top officers can result in influence in decision making. For the current case, it is not known who this supplier is right now but once that come to light, check its hiring record – does it routinely hire top people from govt?

The Gigamole Diaries questions the independence of the CPIB in investigations:

The most effective way to stem corruption is to have an independent, transparent and effective CPIB, and a vigilant public who is prepared to whistleblow. Our CPIB has done an excellent job so far, thankfully. But if we want our politicians to be free from corruption, then the CPIB must have the freedom to investigate all officials including the cabinet and even the Prime Minister. That the CPIB reports to the Prime Minister's Office does not give it a freehand in performing this critical function. Perhaps this line of reporting should be reviewed? Since we have an elected Presidency, should not the CPIB report to the President, rather than to the Prime Minister?

However, this has not been the only scandal that broke in Singapore recently. It has been alleged that Yaw Shin Leong, a member of the opposition Workers Party, has been having an extra-marital affair with a woman also from the Workers Party. The timely release of this report has led to some speculating that it was deliberately leaked to draw attention from investigations of corruption


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