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Alfrescian (Inf)

SPH Media Trust committee should be given ample time for thorough investigation: Josephine Teo​


The Government committed to funding SMT to preserve local news media in public interest amid severe disruption in the industry. ST PHOTO: RYAN CHIONG

David Sun

Feb 22, 2023

SINGAPORE - The SPH Media Trust (SMT) committee probing the issue of overstated circulation data should be given enough time for a thorough investigation, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo.
As for when the investigation report is expected to be completed, the committee can only make that determination based on their findings, she added in response to Mr Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) on Wednesday.
The Workers’ Party MP had sought an update on further investigations into the discrepancy in circulation figures by SMT’s audit and risk committee. He asked if the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) would be asking the committee to share its full investigation report with the public, and when the report is expected to be completed and released.
In a written reply, Mrs Teo noted that SMT’s findings had no bearing on public funds, as the circulation data was not used to decide if and how much to fund the media group.
“With no direct impact to public funding, the decision on whether to share its full investigation report with the public resides with SMT, which has its own executive team and board,” she added.
She reiterated that MCI expects SMT to be “mindful of its responsibility to maintain the public’s trust in its newsrooms and journalists, and do what is needed to meet its obligations”.
SPH Media was spun off from mainboard-listed company Singapore Press Holdings to become a not-for-profit entity in December 2021.

In 2022, the Government committed to funding SMT by up to $900 million over five years, to preserve local news media in the public interest amid severe disruption in the industry.
SMT, which publishes The Straits Times, among other publications, is facing public criticism after it emerged in January that an internal review had found that circulation figures for some of its publications had been overstated by about 85,000 to 95,000 daily average copies. The review covered data between September 2020 and March 2022.
During a Parliament sitting on Feb 6, Mrs Teo said the discovery of overstated circulation data will not affect the Government’s decision to fund the media company, as the reasons to help develop local newsrooms remain valid.
She also said SMT will be held to account when it receives government funding.


Alfrescian (Inf)

SportSG and partners apologise after ‘lapse’ in shoe recycling project uncovered​

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Second-hand shoes on display at a shop in Batam, Indonesia, where Reuters found donated shoes that were supposed to have been recycled in Singapore. PHOTO: REUTERS



Deepanraj Ganesan

Feb 27, 2023

SINGAPORE – National agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) and its partners in a shoe recycling project on Monday issued a joint apology for a “lapse” highlighted in a Reuters investigation, which revealed that old sneakers meant to be recycled for playgrounds and running tracks had instead ended up for sale in Indonesia.
These partners comprised sporting goods retailer Decathlon, chemical company Dow, Standard Chartered bank, surface solutions firm B.T. Sports, and local waste managment company Alba-WH.
In a joint media statement issued by SportSG, the partners said: “The project partners do not condone any unauthorised removal or export of shoes collected through this programme. We will also be taking further steps to tighten up the process chain based on our learning from this incident.
“The project partners sincerely apologise to the public for this lapse. We thank Reuters for flagging this matter to us so that we could take immediate steps to remedy the situation. We have learnt from this incident and hope that the public will continue to support this important and meaningful programme.”
Launched by Dow in partnership with SportSG in September 2020, the project aimed to upcycle the soles from 300,000 pairs of shoes contributed by the public into jogging tracks, fitness areas and playgrounds over the next three years. Contributors were able to drop off their shoes at over 30 collection points such as ActiveSG sport centres and stadiums, Decathlon and JD Sports stores.
Alba was responsible for collecting the shoes and B.T. Sports, which manages the grinding facility, converted the shoes into rubber granules and materials.
In its investigative report on Sunday, Reuters said its journalists had donated 11 pairs of shoes in different locations around Singapore and tracked them over a six-month period. According to its report, none of shoes made it to a Singapore recycling facility with several pairs ending up for sale in crowded bazaars in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta and Batam.

An industry insider who is familiar with such recycling projects, told The Straits Times that an organisation, depending on the scale of the project, will sort out the items using its own staff or hire an external party to do the sorting and packing.
The insider, who only spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “If the project’s aim was to redistribute the shoes then it is understood that the usable shoes are sorted out from the ones that can no longer be used again, especially those that are really worn out. But here that distinction was not made by SportSG or Dow. But this is probably what happened when the external party was used. They seemed to have picked out the good ones and then recycled the bad ones.”
“It seems like the exporter had free rein and thorough checks did not take place to ensure such a thing would not happen.”

The project partners said in the statement that they were first informed of “Reuter’s observations” in January 2023. An investigation led by Alba-WH commenced immediately and measures were also taken to “tighten up the process chain in the interim”.
Investigations were completed on Jan 31 and they showed “vulnerabilities in the process chain with Alba-WH’s subcontractor, which led directly to the collected shoes not being sent for recycling”.
In the statement, the partners explained that Alba-WH had subcontracted the bin collection to recycling firm Yok Impex. The bins were sorted at Yok Impex’s premises before being sent to Alba-WH’s warehouse for registering and weighing, after which the shoes were delivered to the B.T. Sports grinding facility.
“The findings had confirmed that the supply chain was compromised at Yok Impex’s premises where the aggregation of the shoe bins in parallel with Yok Impex’s sorting activities resulted in some shoes being extracted for resale instead of recycling,” said the statement.
“This was likely how the shoes tagged by Reuters – and possibly others – were extracted from the programme’s recycling bins at Yok Impex’s premises for reuse and exported to other countries. The investigations show that this error occurred only at Yok Impex’s facility, and no other.”
Alba-WH has since stopped collection bins from being sent to Yok Impex’s premises, and will not be renewing Yok Impex’s services, added the statement.
In October 2022, the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) named the project and its partners the Most Sustainable Collaboration during its annual awards.
When asked if it would review the decision, SICC chief executive Victor Mills said in a statement: “The award was given for recycling old sports shoes into new materials for sports tracks. This has been done and will continue to be done. Our understanding is this regrettable incident is down to the practices of one shoe collection agent and its contract has been terminated by the party which contracted its services. This incident does not undermine the purpose of the collaboration nor its value.”
To date, 10,000kg of used shoes have been recycled into infrastructure such as Kallang Football Hub and a sport facility under construction in Jurong Town, said the partners. There are also plans to use the rubber granules for jogging tracks, fitness corners, and playgrounds around Singapore.
In December 2021, SportSG unveiled Singapore’s first fully permeable, in-situ tennis hard court at the Jurong West Tennis Centre – which was part of the recycling project – while it was also revealed that as of October 2021, Dow had collected 69,000 pairs of used sports and school shoes.
While the project partners have apologised for the lapse, the public may take more convincing.
Sreetharan Segar, who donated two pairs of Nike shoes at the Decathlon store in 2021, was shocked and disappointed after reading the Reuters report.
The 29-year-old, who works in the logistics industry, said: “If I had known that this is a possibility, I might as well have used my shoes till their last days. If such a thing is possible, it has to be made clear to people who are donating then I think many people would think twice about donating.
“You have to question if the people in charge of the project from SportSG did the due checks to ensure that the donated shoes go through the proper process.”


Alfrescian (Inf)

SPH Media comments on recent senior hires, outlines approach towards talent​


SPH Media said 21 people have been hired for senior leadership roles since it was formed. PHOTO: ST FILE

Jean Iau

Mar 9, 2023

SINGAPORE — SPH Media has addressed comments from the public about its hiring of former staff from IT services and consulting firm Accenture.
In an internal memo to SPH Media staff, it said it had hired 21 people to senior leadership since it was formed.
Of these, three came directly from Accenture, while another three had experience at Accenture at some point in their careers and were in other companies prior to joining SPH Media.
The remaining 15 came from other organisations.
“All staff appointments are undertaken after careful evaluation to ensure that each individual is able to contribute effectively. We will continue to recruit individuals with different perspectives, skills and experience to augment and enrich our talent pool,” wrote head of human resources Maureen Wee in the memo.
She added that every member of the SPH Media family is valuable regardless of where they came from, and how long they have been with the organisation.
“Everyone has a role to play as we navigate the future together.”

The internal memo comes after SPH Media Trust (SMT) was formed as a not-for-profit-entity in December 2021.
On March 1, 2022, Ms Teo Lay Lim, former chairman of Accenture Singapore, took on the role of chief executive of SPH Media.
Discussions on SPH Media’s hiring emerged after the publication on March 5, 2023 of the names of former Accenture staff who form the senior management team of SPH Media Trust.
In a Facebook post, former ST editor Leslie Fong compiled the list which included Ms Teo, chief financial officer Andy Hui, chief technology officer Kaythaya Maw, chief transformation officer David Pang, head of circulation Melvin Tan, head of corporate marketing and communications Fen Peh, and head of corporate real estate and workplace services Jennifer Lee.
He added in his post: “Coincidence? You draw your own conclusions, my friends.”


Alfrescian (Inf)

Ex-Changi Airport Group chairman’s son Karl Liew admits lying to judge in Parti Liyani case​


Karl Liew pleaded guilty to one charge of giving false information to a public servant. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Shaffiq Alkhatib
Court Correspondent

Mar 30, 2023

SINGAPORE - Karl Liew admitted to lying to a district judge in the case involving his family’s former maid, Ms Parti Liyani, who had been accused of stealing from his family.
The 45-year-old, who is the son of former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, pleaded guilty on Thursday to one charge of giving false information to a public servant.
The prosecution asked for a fine of $5,000 and the case has been adjourned to April 14.
After a trial, Ms Parti, an Indonesian, then 45, was initially convicted in 2019 of stealing $34,000 worth of items from the Liews.
She was acquitted after the High Court overturned her conviction on appeal in 2020.
Ms Parti, who began working for the Liew family in 2007, was asked in March 2016 to do chores at Karl Liew‘s home and clean his office at another location.
She was unhappy at being made to do extra work for him.

The Liew family terminated her employment in October 2016, and she was given two hours to pack her belongings into three boxes.
Ms Parti threatened to lodge a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower before returning to Indonesia.
She had asked Karl Liew to pay for the boxes to be shipped to her. The next day, the Liew family opened the boxes.

A police report was made claiming that some of the items she had packed in the boxes belonged to the Liew family.
Ms Parti was arrested when she returned to Singapore in December 2016, and was charged with four counts of theft in August 2017.
She claimed trial to the charges, was convicted and sentenced to two years and two months’ jail in 2019.

Ms Parti was acquitted after an appeal in 2020, in which the High Court ruled the original conviction was unsafe, highlighting the police’s handling of the evidence.
It had been reported in February 2022 that the two police officers who were involved in Ms Parti’s case had neglected their duties and had fallen short of expectations.
Both officers were fined, and the penalties were calculated through the number of months of salary increments foregone, said Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam on Feb 14, 2022.
He was giving Parliament an update into the internal investigations of the case.
Mr Shanmugam had said both the investigation officer (IO) and his supervisor had neglected their duties, resulting in three lapses.
The first was that the IO did not visit the crime scene to promptly carry out investigations and gather evidence, contributing to a break in the chain of custody for some exhibits.
The second was the IO did not properly verify some of the claims made by parties during the investigation.
The third lapse was the supervisor not providing sufficient guidance.
The minister said the officers had done their jobs under difficult circumstances, facing workload challenges due to a manpower shortage in the police force.
He said both officers faced penalties in the medium range.


Alfrescian (Inf)

‘Failed to practise responsible journalism’: TOC’s Terry Xu fined $18k for contempt of court​


Terry Xu had reposted an open letter by an Australian citizen who questioned the equity of Singapore’s justice system. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Selina Lum
Senior Law Correspondent

Apr 6, 2023

SINGAPORE - Chief editor of sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC) Terry Xu has been fined $18,000 for contempt of court for reposting an open letter by an Australian citizen who questioned the equity of Singapore’s justice system.
The High Court also ordered Xu to delete the article from TOC’s website, but ruled that the accompanying comments left by readers on the Web page do not have to be removed.
The article had been taken down by Thursday afternoon when The Straits Times checked the site.
On Jan 27, 2021, Xu reproduced a letter that Ms Julie O’Connor had posted on her personal blog earlier that day, with a few stylistic edits.
Xu also shared the article on TOC’s Facebook page. The post was removed earlier in 2023.
In a judgment issued on Thursday, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng said Xu “failed to practise responsible journalism, and instead proceeded to publish scurrilous allegations against the courts” to influence the opinions of TOC’s readers.
The judge said the article and the Facebook post were “rife with grave allegations levelled against the judiciary”.

Justice Hoo said the article, when read as a whole, suggests to a reasonable reader that the Singapore courts favour those who have money, power or connections with judges; that judges are not selected for their courage to seek or determine the truth; and that the courts decide cases based on political reasons rather than on their merits.
This directly impugns the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and “would necessarily as well as undoubtedly undermine public confidence in the judiciary”, she said.
Ms O’Connor’s open letter was addressed to Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and made references to his speech at a ceremony to mark the opening of the 2021 legal year.

Ms O’Connor, a former Singapore permanent resident, referred to several cases from the previous year, such as that of Ms Parti Liyani, a former domestic worker who was acquitted of theft.
She also cited the cases involving Mr Li Shengwu, who was fined for contempt of court, and Mrs Lee Suet Fern, who was found guilty of professional misconduct in her handling of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s will.
Ms O’Connor also wrote that a Queen’s Counsel had commented that the court decision in Mrs Lee’s case was “legally unsound”.

Between Jan 18, 2021, and March 24, 2021, the TOC article attracted 4,310 page views. The Facebook post, as at June 17, 2021, had received 146 reactions, 31 comments and 44 shares.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) started contempt proceedings against Xu after he refused its demand on June 22, 2021, to remove the article and the Facebook post.
Justice Hoo said Xu showed a complete lack of remorse by keeping the article and the Facebook post up, even after the AGC informed him that the publications contained contemptuous allegations.
She said the reference to “Queen’s Counsel” in the article conjured a false sheen of legitimacy to the allegations.
The Attorney-General had sought a $20,000 fine with 10 days’ jail in lieu of payment. Xu, who was represented by Mr Lim Tean, argued that the fine should be no more than $3,000 with four days’ jail in lieu of payment.
Justice Hoo said a fine of $18,000, with 10 days’ jail in lieu of payment, was appropriate and in line with the precedents.
She cited the cases of blogger and activist Alex Au, who was fined $8,000; activist Jolovan Wham, who was fined $5,000; and Mr Li, who was fined $15,000.
She said Xu’s conduct was more egregious and therefore warranted a higher sentence than these cases.

Under the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act, those found liable for contempt can be punished with a fine of up to $100,000, a prison term of up to three years, or both.
Xu had earlier failed in his attempt to stop the Attorney-General from continuing with the contempt proceedings against him.
He had argued that prosecuting only him and not even investigating Ms O’Connor was a violation of his constitutional right to equal treatment under the law.
But the Court of Appeal dismissed his bid, saying that Xu‘s treatment cannot be meaningfully compared with that of Ms O’Connor’s as there were differentiating factors between them.
The factors include the fact that Ms O’Connor lives overseas, making it difficult for the Singapore authorities to investigate and prosecute her, and that Xu‘s publication likely gave the allegations much wider circulation than they would otherwise have enjoyed, given TOC’s reach as a news platform.
The Attorney-General was entitled to take these factors into account in deciding to prosecute Xu but not Ms O’Connor, said the apex court.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Should universities accept $100m donations from coal companies?​

For an institution like the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, accepting money linked to industries harming the planet risks undermining its goals​


David Fogarty
Climate Change Editor

The donation comes as the NUS has been ramping up its sustainability practices and programmes. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

APR 5, 2023

A recent gift of $101 million to the National University of Singapore (NUS) was remarkable for its size and scope. The gift to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) is the school’s largest and aims to significantly boost its leadership programmes for public officers from Asia, and the number of scholarships for students in the region.
But within the university, the gift has stirred unease and raised questions that many other universities have grappled with in recent years: Is funding linked to fossil fuels still appropriate as the climate crisis worsens?
The gift came from the Low Tuck Kwong Foundation, named after Singapore-born Indonesian coal billionaire Low Tuck Kwong, whose Bayan Resources is one of Indonesia’s top coal producers.
Datuk Low and his family have had a long association with the university. His daughter, Ms Elaine Low, who is chairman of the foundation, graduated with a Master in Public Policy from the LKYSPP in 2014. And in 2011, NUS set up the Low Tuck Kwong Distinguished Professorship with a gift of $3 million.
The latest gift aims to bolster Asia’s future through leadership training, outreach and engagement, and strengthen Indonesia-Singapore ties.
For many universities, donations from fossil fuel companies or via foundations remain a grey area as such funding can provide much needed cash and boost research programmes – especially after the Covid-19 pandemic hit some universities hard, leading to a big drop in student numbers.
Yet, the optics of such donations are becoming harder to manage. The fossil fuel industry is under fire for helping fuel climate change and Big Oil’s vow to accelerate oil and gas investment, despite warnings by the United Nations and International Energy Agency that doing so risks accelerating climate impacts.

In addition, the donation comes as NUS has been ramping up its sustainability practices and programmes, and the gift seems at odds with the Singapore Government’s recent adoption of much more ambitious climate targets.
Datuk Low has been developing a small regional renewable energy company, Metis Energy, but Bayan Resources has plans to continue expanding coal production, based on the company’s latest financial reports. That expansion and high global coal prices have meant bumper profits for the company.
In response to questions from The Straits Times, a spokesman for the LKYSPP said: “As with all philanthropic gifts for academic research received by the university, this gift does not influence how LKYSPP academics carry out their research, nor determine the findings and conclusions they reach.

“The LKYSPP remains committed to conducting research and policy-oriented dialogues useful to policymakers and scholars across a broad spectrum. These areas include sustainability strategies and solutions.
“This philanthropic gift affords us greater capacity to carry out our educational mission. Research and knowledge drive change for a better world.”
NUS said it carefully vets all potential donors, especially their reputation, character and business record. Like other universities, it has detailed guidelines on vetting donations for legal, reputational and other criteria. However, it declined to answer questions on whether it was considering adding additional criteria around fossil fuels.
The $101 million gift, though, is a major boost for the university and comes as the number of donors and total value of gifts have been on a downward trend since 2017.
According to the university’s 2022 annual report, 8,068 donors donated $190 million between April 2021 and March 2022. This compares with 11,812 donors who gave $276.8 million in the 2017 financial year.

Divided opinions​

In the United States, Britain and Australia, the debate over fossil fuel gifts has divided opinions. Some academics say such funding can help accelerate the green transition. The money can also be a vital lifeline for some researchers and help fund green solutions.
Others say the money represents a conflict of interest and could influence research outcomes and compromise academic freedoms. Such donations “buy” the institution’s good name.
A study published in March estimated that six fossil fuel companies – ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron, Shell Oil, ConocoPhillips and Koch Industries – donated or pledged nearly US$680 million (S$902 million) in research funding to 27 universities in the US from 2010 to 2020.
The exact amount was hard to calculate because of the lack of transparency around such donations. But the groups behind the study, US think-tank Data for Progress and the non-profit Fossil Free Research, said there was enough public information, such as tax filings and annual reports, to get a good estimate.
“Fossil fuel companies have been quietly leveraging their wealth to gain influence across higher education, including sponsorship of climate and energy-related research,” said the authors of the report.
In 2022, hundreds of scientists wrote an open letter to US and British universities to ask them to ban fossil fuel industry funding for climate change, environmental and energy policy research. The number of signatories has since grown to more than 800 from more than 130 institutions.
The signatories say accepting fossil fuel research funding contravenes universities’ stated commitments to tackling the climate crisis and that universities that maintain close ties to the fossil fuel industry incur a substantial reputational risk.
Western universities have also faced very active campaigns to end all investments in fossil fuel companies as part of their portfolios.
“I think universities should address each situation on a case-by-case basis,” said Mr Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in Britain.
“In general, I do not see a problem in accepting funding from a fossil fuel company that is demonstrably committed to the transition away from fossil fuels and to net-zero global emissions by the middle of the century. The money should only be used to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon and climate-resilient world.”
But he felt universities should not accept money from companies not committed to the transition, to avoid being party to greenwashing.

Treading a careful line​

The Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra said it considers exposure to fossil fuels or greenhouse gas-intensive industries as part of its due diligence process for potential donations. All donations must adhere to the university’s principles of, and commitment to, academic freedom and research rigour.
Melbourne’s La Trobe University said: “We do not undertake research relevant to the fossil fuel industry, nor do we accept donations from the fossil fuel industry.”
In 2016, the university said it would cease direct investment in the fossil fuel industry. “We have since divested all of our direct shareholdings and moved the balance of our investments away from fossil fuel companies,” a spokesman said.
Other experts The Straits Times spoke to talked about the very careful line universities need to tread.
“Universities have almost a charter, an agreement with society, to be working on addressing the challenges that confront societies. And environmental damage broadly and climate change in particular are among the grand challenges we face,” said associate professor for sustainability and ethics Sukhbir Sandhu of the University of South Australia in Adelaide.
“Universities might have a valid reason for accepting fossil fuel funding, especially if it’s to help make the sector more sustainable, more efficient, become less environmentally damaging.”
A particular challenge is meeting the aspirations of students and staff. “On average, about 80 per cent of employees say they would like to work for an organisation that’s environmentally sustainable. So to attract employees, it’s important that organisations have a clear environmental mission. And of course, taking funding from fossil fuels does not align with that mission.”
The risks from fossil fuel funding are growing as climate impacts increase, especially from an industry with a long reputation of denying and then delaying climate action.
“Universities have a fiduciary responsibility to their staff and students. If a university can invest in student or research support, it should take opportunities to do so,” said Dr Aaron Tang, a lecturer in climate policy at ANU.
“However, universities carry an influential voice in society. What they say and what they do are important social and political signals. If we want to stop climate change, there are some industries that we need to legislate and regulate – the fossil fuel industry is one of them.”
Ultimately, the debate on donations is much more than just a focus on fossil fuels. The emerging challenge for universities is – how green does the donation need to be? Very, is the short answer.
With the crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, air pollution and water scarcity increasing, the public will surely demand action by governments and corporations to stop the trashing of the planet. And that means universities are key to creating a new generation of scientists and political and business leaders who can reshape the world into a more sustainable one.
The LKYSPP’s vision statement is especially pertinent here: “A world transformed through good governance and leadership excellence.” Accepting money linked to industries harming the planet risks undermining this vision.


Alfrescian (Inf)
"Firstly, Tan did not address how the panel was selected, as well as why it is largely made up of FAS council members."

SEA Games football review: FAS has gotten off on wrong foot with panel​


FAS announced that a panel has been formed to review the Young Lion’s performance at the SEA Games in Cambodia. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

David Lee
Sports Correspondent

May 22, 2023

SINGAPORE – Already weary from the national Under-22s’ disastrous showing at the SEA Games and the subsequent backlash, the football fraternity was hit by another issue over the weekend.
On Saturday, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) acting president Bernard Tan announced that a panel has been formed to review the Young Lion’s performance at the recently-concluded Games in Cambodia.
He said the panel comprising former national coach Jita Singh and FAS council members Razali Saad, Lim Tong Hai and Harman Ali will be given four weeks to conduct the review. Their report will then be discussed in-house for two weeks, after which recommendations will be released publicly.
Tan also noted that the Young Lions will not participate in any international tournaments until the completion of the review, the implementation of the findings and when the authorities assess the team to be at a competitive level.
These developments have raised eyebrows and questions.
Firstly, Tan did not address how the panel was selected, as well as why it is largely made up of FAS council members. Despite pledging earlier that FAS “has always been open to engagement with stakeholders” and that “tough questions will be asked... and we will do this openly”, it remains to be seen if this was the case.
The only man among the quartet who is not from the FAS is Singh, a decorated coach. But the veteran’s success was in the 1980s when he led the Lions to the 1980 Malaysia Cup and SEA Games silver medals in 1983 and 1989 with senior teams.

After various postings, he returned to join the FAS in 2007 as head of grassroots development, and until 2014 oversaw other areas such as the now-defunct National Football Academy as well as club and junior centres of excellence. In the past 15 years, Singapore football has seen a sharp decline.
If the FAS truly wanted an independent critical analysis, there are sufficient internal and external options.
Why is its technical director Michael Browne not part of the panel? What about the likes of former Malaysia technical director and current Balestier Khalsa coach Peter de Roo, as well as home heroes and youth football experts who have gone through or worked in the system such as Kadir Yahaya, R. Sasikumar and Hariss Harun?

In The Straits Times’ analysis of what could be done to salvage the situation, most of the observers suggested getting the right people in for the right job.
After parachuting in Philippe Aw to coach the Young Lions and then giving him “time off” after the dreadful SEA Games campaign, it seems like the FAS has gotten off on the wrong foot again with the composition of its review panel.

The announcement of the Young Lions’ international competition suspension is equally baffling.
By Tan’s estimate, it would not take more than two months before the review recommendations are shared with the public. On a side note, we are still waiting for the review findings of the senior team’s Asean Football Federation Championship campaign that ended in early January.
This means these could be revealed in July, before the earliest international assignments for the Young Lions – the Under-23 Asian Cup qualifiers and Asian Games from September to October – kick off.
If they are allowed to play, the suspension would be moot as there are no tournaments during that period. If they don’t, then the FAS will appear to be punishing the team.
The national sports association could also be accused of not being a team player in the larger picture.
In a nod to national football project Unleash the Roar! (UTR), the Singapore National Olympic Council had approved the Young Lions’ selection for the upcoming Asian Games after excluding them from the 2018 edition as they had not met the sixth-placed benchmark from the previous Asiad.
Their selection is a show of solidarity to convince various stakeholders, especially aspiring footballers and their parents, that here is support from the authorities who are aligned with UTR and that football is a career worth pursuing.
The suspension not only leaves the Under-23 Asian Cup qualifiers and Asian Games participation hanging in the balance, but also undermines the work that FAS has done in identifying young talents for the various national age group teams.
Singapore football is hurting and rather than divide the fraternity with such decisions, the FAS and Tan must listen to its stakeholders and move forward together.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Review to be carried out on Ridout Road properties; Shanmugam, Vivian requested it: PM Lee​


SLA had earlier said both properties on Ridout Road had been vacant for several years. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Grace Ho
Deputy News Editor

May 23, 2023

SINGAPORE - A review will be carried out by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean on the rental of the Ridout Road properties. This must be done to ensure that the Government maintains the highest standards of integrity, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a statement on Tuesday.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan have also spoken to him to request a review that is independent of the ministries and agencies they supervise, he added.
“Last week, I asked for reports from the relevant agencies setting out the facts,” said Mr Lee. “I have also asked Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean to review the matter, and establish whether proper processes have been followed, and if there has been any wrongdoing.
“I have asked SM Teo to carry out the review expeditiously and to make the findings public in time for the Parliamentary sitting.”

Discussions have emerged over the circumstances by which Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan came to be the tenants of No 26 and No 31 Ridout Road respectively. This came after opposition politician and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam first published several social media posts over the two colonial bungalows.
Mr Jeyaretnam had written on May 6 that it was difficult to see how the ministers “could afford to pay the market rent for such a pricey property”.
Earlier in a statement issued on May 12, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) confirmed that the two properties were tenanted to Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan.

It added that both properties had been vacant for several years, and the rentals were “performed in full compliance with the relevant SLA procedures”.
In its statement, SLA gave details of how the properties came to be rented by the ministers. It did not say how many bids were received, or how much the properties were rented out for. More details on the matter will be provided when Parliament next sits in July, it added.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday evening, Mr Shanmugam said he had suggested an independent review to look into whether there was any wrongdoing.

“We need this sort of approach, regardless of who is involved, to make sure the system operates with integrity. We cannot let doubts about the integrity of ministers fester and be left unaddressed,” he said.
“I have nothing to hide. We should set out the facts, lay them before Parliament, and the people. That’s the only way to retain trust. And when Parliament next meets in July, the questions will be dealt with.”
He added that serious allegations have been made, but “we are confident of how we had conducted ourselves. So, we asked the Prime Minister for an independent review”.
Asked if he had any specific comments or rebuttals on the allegations made so far, Mr Shanmugam noted that there had been allegations that the ministers had cut down trees illegally, got SLA to pay for work done on a car porch, and so on.
“I don’t want to comment much until SM Teo’s review is done. But I will say, speaking from a personal perspective – the allegations are outrageous. Let the agencies do their work, and report to the Prime Minister. Let the review be done, let the facts come out, and then I will respond.
“And if the review does show some wrongdoing, you know what will happen.”
Separately, Dr Balakrishnan told reporters that he was “very glad that Prime Minister Lee agreed to have this review, and to publish all relevant facts and findings before we have a full debate in Parliament”.
Several PAP Members of Parliament and the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) have indicated they will pose questions at the July sitting.
Three PAP MPs – Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok), Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) and Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC) – have filed parliamentary questions since May 16 on the matter.
Mr Murali noted in a Facebook post on May 18 that he had asked, among other things, whether Mr Shanmugam was “involved in his official capacity” in any decisions relating to the rental of these properties; and what measures have been put in place to ensure that the bid process is fair, transparent and competitive.
Mr Sitoh asked for SLA’s standard tenancy operating procedures, and whether SLA had followed these procedures.
Mr Zhulkarnain asked about the circumstances under which the properties came to be rented out to the two ministers, and how SLA had marketed the two properties to be leased.
In a statement issued on May 18, the WP said that Leader of the Opposition and WP chief Pritam Singh would ask the Prime Minister at the July sitting for the Government’s reasons for not calling a press conference in May to address the public allegations regarding the matter.
He would ask how the Government will assure the public that both ministers were not in receipt of any privileged information pertaining to the lease of 26 and 31 Ridout Road; and also whether there are any rules, conventions or policies to ensure that Cabinet ministers do not take advantage of privileged information received in the course of their official or non-official duties, in regard to the lease of government properties.
The WP’s statement added: “We call on the SLA to release all relevant and material facts in advance, such as the guide rent for both properties, so as to make for a fuller and more meaningful debate in Parliament.”


#1 Ownself praise ownself

Facts show task force has handled Covid-19 situation well, but fight goes on, says Lawrence Wong
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on July 7, 2020.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on July 7, 2020.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
PUBLISHED JUL 7, 2020, 6:43 PM SGT

Toh Ting Wei

SINGAPORE - The Covid-19 task force has handled the current crisis well in terms of numbers relating to community infection, fatality rate and how it has helped migrant workers, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (July 7).

But at the end of the day, the fight against the coronavirus is still ongoing, and Singaporeans will have to judge the task force's performance, he said.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force combating the Covid-19 outbreak, was responding to a question during a virtual briefing about the virus situation in Singapore.

A reporter had asked Mr Wong about his thoughts on how voters will assess the task force's performance, and whether this will affect the People's Action Party vote share in the July 10 general election.

"If you looked at what we have achieved up till now, the outcomes are quite clear," said Mr Wong.
"We have been able to bring down infection rates in the community significantly and protected many Singaporeans, especially the vulnerable ones. We have been able to achieve a fatality rate which is amongst the lowest in the world.

"Where the cases in the dormitory are concerned... I do not know of any other country that has mounted as significant an operation as Singapore has in taking care of its migrant workers."

On the migrant worker situation, Mr Wong said the task force is currently in the process of testing all the workers.

He added that beyond taking care of their health, the Government has also taken care of their well-being, their food and their salaries.

"We have done everything we can to ensure the overall well-being of these workers because we know that they are an important part of our society," he said.

The Government's management of the Covid-19 situation has become a political issue in recent days, with opposition candidates questioning whether the situation could have been handled better.

Among those include Professor Paul Tambyah, an infectious diseases expert and a candidate from the Singapore Democratic Party.

Prof Tambyah had flagged the Ministry of Manpower's advisory to warn employers against sending asymptomatic workers for Covid-19 testing earlier this year as a mistake.

But Mr Wong and the relevant authorities have subsequently rebutted the allegation.

On Tuesday, even as Mr Wong defended the Government's handling of the situation, he also thanked all those who have helped in Singapore's fight against Covid-19 so far.

He added: "This fight is far from over, there is still so much that we need to do and that's why we have asked for everyone to focus their minds on what is critical."
Like do 10yr series mah.... Mist ownself check first


Alfrescian (Inf)

SPH Media files police report after potential offences flagged in circulation data probe​


SPH Media said it will cooperate fully with the police following recommendations made in a report by the organisation’s audit and risk committee. PHOTO: ST FILE

Goh Yan Han
Political Correspondent

June 21, 2023

SINGAPORE – SPH Media Group has filed a police report after potential offences were flagged in an investigation into the overstating of circulation numbers.
The media company, which publishes The Straits Times, said in a statement on Wednesday that it will cooperate fully with the police, following recommendations made in a report by the organisation’s audit and risk committee. It had been tasked by SPH Media Holdings’ board in January to look into the inflated numbers.
During an internal briefing for SPH Media publications, Mr Max Loh, who chairs the committee, said the police report was not made against specific individuals or entities but comprised the findings of the investigation.
He added: “We cannot say more than that because it will prejudice police investigations. We’ve laid out what the issues or the findings are. And I think we really have to leave it to the relevant authorities, which, in this case, are the police, to figure out how they’re going to proceed and maybe if at all, they want to proceed.”
When asked about the specific offences that were laid out in the report but redacted, Mr Loh said it was not for the committee to determine the offences. The police have access to the full, unredacted report, he said.
“We’ve drawn a line in the sand, basically, so that we can collectively as an organisation move forward with our own mission and purpose... not being unduly burdened by these legacy things that have bogged us down for the past months,” said the former managing partner of EY Asean and Singapore and a member of SPH Media’s board.
The report, which is available on SPH Media’s website, also determined that there was no evidence found that the journalism and editorial departments were involved in the overstatement of circulation numbers.

The committee had commissioned legal advisers from Allen & Gledhill to assist, and in turn, it appointed accounting firm Deloitte to help with forensic discovery and analysis of relevant data.
SPH Media had said in January that several senior employees had been taken to task or had left the company after inconsistencies were found in reporting circulation data.
The matter came to light after an internal review of processes for the period from September 2020 to March 2022. It was during this time, in December 2021, that SPH Media was created following a restructuring of its then listed parent company Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

When asked how many people were interviewed for Wednesday’s report, Mr Loh did not give an exact number but confirmed that it included more than 10 people from SPH Media and SPH and that it was “quite thorough and comprehensive”.
It did not, however, include the four staff members who had left the company in January as they had been interviewed for the earlier internal audit, he said.
In the 14-page report presented to the media group’s board on Tuesday, the committee said Allen & Gledhill had found the actions taken against the employees and former employees in January to be “reasonably justified in the circumstances” and in compliance with SPH Media’s policies.
As for employees who were also involved but are still with the company, Allen & Gledhill said they had acted under the instructions of their superiors. They also appeared to have operated under the mistaken belief that the practices directed by the superiors were accepted practices in the company.
The law firm, which reported its findings to the audit and risk committee on June 16, found that SPH had overstated its daily circulation numbers by 82,600 using data from August 2021.

This comprised 49,000 bulk copies via the Newspapers in Education (NIE) Fund that were reported but not distributed; 5,000 from a Y Deal; 15,000 from an X Barter deal; 1,900 school copies, 2,300 airline copies, 9,000 agency copies and 400 from those who had subscribed to all-in-one packages.
The total number accounted for about 10 per cent of reported daily average circulation.
SPH Media did not identify the parties mentioned in the report.
Chief executive Teo Lay Lim had in January sent an e-mail to advertisers saying that circulation data is not used as a basis for SPH Media’s advertising packages. Instead, it uses data on reach and readership from independent third-party research agencies.
SPH Media also said in its statement on Wednesday that there was no material accounting impact to the financial statements of the company for the financial year that ended in August 2022.
The probe found that there were several matters that could potentially constitute offences, citing similar cases in Hong Kong and the United States.
Apart from the police report recommended by Allen & Gledhill, which the committee concurred with, the probe committee also set out various recommendations for the media group.
“SPH Media Group should take the opportunity to evaluate its risk culture, enhance its risk management practices and continually improve its internal controls and processes,” it said.
This includes building a culture where people feel they can speak openly about risks and challenge others, including those in higher positions, who should then positively address any concerns.
Leaders should also set the tone for a quality and risk-oriented culture that balances commercial considerations with risk management.
The committee also noted that SPH Media “has a legacy of operating within individual departments, given the specialised nature of each operation or function”.
It said the firm should perform a comprehensive review of its control environment and practices to balance operation effectiveness and efficiency with its expected standards of conduct and accountability.
Ms Teo said during the briefing on Wednesday that she was as worried as any employee about people who think SPH Media is untrustworthy following this incident.
“The only thing I can say is that if we saw this and we are doing something about it, I hope that those who are reasonable and fair out there will believe that we all want to do what’s right and what’s responsible,” she said.

How the numbers were inflated​

The report noted that printing and distributing bulk copies to third parties appeared to be an acceptable practice in the newspaper industry, and was not illegal or prohibited under the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Singapore rules. However, copies cannot be counted if they are returned, unsold or undelivered.
There were several instances when this was done, stated the report, which is available on SPH Media’s website.
It added that those involved in overstating circulation numbers and who knew that undelivered copies were included in the reported numbers were from the circulation division.
“There has been no evidence sighted to suggest that the (SPH) board or its senior management (save for [redacted]) were involved in this,” it said.
The report cited examples of how the numbers were overstated, like the printing of ST copies for secondary schools that had requested to change their package deal to include only digital copies.
Another example was the printing copies for school reading corners amid the Covid-19 pandemic when the schools had asked for delivery to be paused. These copies were then sent to a Kaki Bukit warehouse to be disposed of or later distributed.
There were also bulk copies purchased under the NIE Fund to shore up circulation numbers in annual reports to cushion the fall in print circulation numbers and meet key performance indicator targets for the circulation division. Of these, some were disposed of, while there were also digital copies for which no evidence was found on whether they were ever distributed or accessed.
The NIE Fund was originally set up to pay for the distribution of newspaper samples to students, needy families, halfway houses and charities.

How overseas courts have dealt with those who inflate newspaper circulation numbers​

There have been cases, in Hong Kong and the United States, where employees of news outlets were taken to task for inflating circulation figures.
At the Standard and Sunday Standard in Hong Kong, anti-graft officials arrested six people in 1997 in connection with a scheme to inflate circulation figures for the Hong Kong Standard Newspaper and its sister paper, the Sunday Standard.
Three executives were jailed for terms ranging from four to six months after they were convicted of conspiring with two others, including newspaper tycoon Sally Aw Sian, to defraud companies and people who purchase or might purchase advertising space in the newspapers between 1993 and 1997.
Among other things, they were found to have inflated circulation figures to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), used a bogus company to purchase excess print newspapers, and disposed of excess newspapers purportedly purchased by the bogus company.
Ms Aw, the adopted daughter of Tiger Balm businessman Aw Boon Haw and executive chairman of Sing Tao Holdings, a publicly listed company that published the newspapers, was not prosecuted.
Hong Kong’s then secretary of justice cited a lack of evidence against her and the public interest as reasons not to prosecute, since doing so might have ruined the newspaper and led to a loss of jobs when unemployment was on the rise.
In 2006, nine former employees and contractors of US news outlets Newsday and Hoy pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent scheme between 2000 and 2004 to inflate paid circulation data to induce advertisers to buy advertising space.
Media group Tribune Co, which ran the newspapers, agreed to pay US$15 million in a settlement with the US government.
Newsday and Spanish-language newspaper Hoy Publications admitted that between 2001 and 2004, their employees “systematically inflated” circulation numbers in books and records and lied to ABC, Reuters reported.
The agreement, under which the two newspapers avoided prosecution by the US Attorney’s Office, was reached after they set aside US$90 million to compensate advertisers misled by the false numbers.
Newsday admitted that senior managers told distributors to lie to auditors.
Some of the inflated figures came from Newsday employees posing as customers and buying large quantities of the paper throughout Long Island, New York, prosecutors said.


Alfrescian (Inf)

SPH Media circulation saga: 8 key findings and what went wrong​


The findings led legal advisers from Allen & Gledhill and the committee to agree that some of the matters could constitute offences. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Jean Iau

June 21, 2023

SINGAPORE - Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) overstated its daily circulation numbers, among other findings, a report by SPH Media’s audit and risk committee showed on Wednesday.
These findings led legal advisers from Allen & Gledhill and the committee to agree that some of the matters could constitute offences, and that a police report ought to be filed.
The names of individuals and companies involved in the findings were redacted in the report.
Here are the key findings by the legal advisers.

Areas where potential offences could have been committed​

1. The Newspapers in Education (NIE) Fund and bulk copies​

Bulk copies were understood by those interviewed to mean non-subscription-based news publications sold and distributed at a discounted rate or for free in large numbers.
These copies would be bought or sponsored by corporate customers, or paid for out of the NIE Fund at a heavily discounted rate.
While the details of who and when the fund was set up could not be confirmed, it dated back to as early as 2000.

It was set up to pay for the distribution of bulk copies to students, needy families, halfway houses and charities to increase SPH publications’ readership.
This practice was common knowledge. Management reports by the circulation division that were presented to the chief executive and board referred to “bulk” and “booster” copies. Booster copies were understood to be used to increase circulation numbers.
Revenue into the fund came from packages sold under an education deal, a third-party contract, the sale of PSLE Oral Guidebooks, journalism workshops conducted for schools, editorial write-ups and roadshows or promotional events for smaller advertisers.

Some clients were not aware that the money they paid to SPH would be used to buy bulk copies.
The bulk copies shored up circulation numbers in SPH’s annual reports, cushioned the fall in print circulation numbers, and allowed the circulation division to meet key performance indicator targets.
These targets relating to circulation numbers were discussed with senior management and approved as part of the then listed company’s annual budget.
The number of NIE bulk copies would usually be the highest in August as these numbers would be used in SPH’s annual report.
In recent years, more digital NIE bulk copies, which cost less than print copies, were added to cushion the fall in print circulation and maintain circulation numbers.

The fund was closed in May 2022 following the discovery of the overstatement of numbers in March that year.
The board did not appear to be aware of the operational aspects of the fund, and only the circulation division seemed to know about the source of money paid into the fund.
What was wrong: In August 2021 alone, bulk copies through the NIE Fund which were reported but not distributed accounted for 49,000, or more than half, of the overstated average daily circulation number.
Printing and distributing bulk copies to third parties is not illegal or prohibited under the rules of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) Singapore.
However, copies cannot be counted if they are returned, unsold or undelivered.
This means that the circulation numbers in SPH’s annual reports for FY2020 and 2021, and the biannual and annual submissions to the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and SingStat were inflated.
Those who knew about the overstatement of circulation numbers and that the bulk copies that were not delivered but yet reported were from the circulation division.
No evidence suggests that the board or senior management, aside from one individual whose name was redacted, were involved.
There are also grounds to suggest improper accounting of the NIE Fund as financial reporting standards require that an entity recognise revenue when it satisfies its obligations under a contract with a customer.
However, some money earned from customers were booked into the NIE Fund as liabilities instead of revenue.
Likewise, the NIE bulk copies which were not sold or distributed in a transaction with a third party should not have been recognised as circulation revenue.

2. X Barter Deal​

Between 2013 and 2022, SPH had a barter, or exchange, agreement with a news company identified only as X.
The arrangement involved X providing its e-paper digital subscriptions to SPH in exchange for 10,000 Straits Times (ST) and 5,000 Business Times (BT) digital subscriptions.
Only seven digital codes for ST and BT were accessed during an 18-month period ended July 29, 2022.
The amount paid to X by SPH and vice versa offset each other, and no real cash changed hands.
The deal aimed to expand SPH news publications’ outreach and distribute them in other jurisdictions at zero or low real costs. The deal also sought to promote the publications locally by building subscriptions with complimentary access to foreign news publications.
While the board was aware of the existence of barter deals, there is no evidence that they were told of the operational details of these deals.
What was wrong: While barter deals between media organisations are legitimate and long-established practices and not, in and of themselves, improper, the barter deal could have evolved into a questionable arrangement if entered into for the sole purpose of inflating circulation numbers and revenue without a genuine intention to execute the arrangement.
Red flags in the X Barter Deal include unexplained variances in the terms and conditions of the deal, and the absence of evidence showing the distribution of the digital activation codes.
If the deal was not a genuine arrangement, the corresponding revenue and expenses should not have been recognised, and the circulation numbers should not have been counted.

Other findings from the investigation​

3. School copies​

SPH publications were supplied to schools under two arrangements.
Under the first deal, SPH supplied secondary schools with a print and digital package of both the IN Paper and ST.
For FY2020, an employee directed the circulation division to stop printing and delivering ST print copies to schools at the schools’ request, but to continue reporting these copies as part of ST’s print circulation numbers.
No ST print copies were in fact printed or delivered under this deal from FY2020 onwards.
The following year, the package was revised to exclude the ST print copy, leading to a reduction of 1,900 daily circulation numbers for ST print copies. However, the circulation division was directed to use the NIE Fund to print more print copies to plug the gap in circulation targets for that financial year.
The circulation division continued to print copies of the IN Paper, when schools wanted only the digital copy. Printed copies of IN Paper were delivered to an SPH warehouse in Kaki Bukit and disposed of.
The second arrangement involved reading-corner print and digital copies of SPH news publications placed in tertiary schools.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, when schools requested to pause the delivery of print copies for their reading corners owing to school closures, these copies were still printed, sent to the Kaki Bukit warehouse, and eventually disposed of or stored and redistributed later.
However, these copies were included in SPH’s reported circulation numbers.
The number of copies that were sent to Kaki Bukit during the school closures and disposed of is not known.
The report said there was no available evidence that the SPH’s board or its senior management, aside from some redacted names, knew about the issues surrounding the school copies.

4. Avatar copies​

“Avatar” was understood among interviewees who were aware of the term to mean “throw away”.
It referred to the NIE bulk copies and the reading-corner copies which were not distributed during the school closures but instead disposed of.
The bulk copies were stored in the print centre, and on the instructions of the circulation division, shredded and sold to a third-party waste collector.
They were also delivered to the client at a later date, or delivered to halfway houses and charities in case of audit checks.
The reading-corner copies were printed during school closures and delivered to Kaki Bukit, and some were eventually disposed of.
It could not be determined when the practice of disposing of print copies started, how many print copies were not delivered and instead disposed of, or how many copies were delivered to clients, halfway houses or charities.
Only employees in the circulation division knew about “Avatar”. There is no evidence to suggest that the board was aware of the practice of disposing print copies or the term “Avatar”.

5. Y deal​

From 2013 to March 2022, an entity identified only as Y paid SPH royalty fees monthly to print and distribute 5,000 daily copies of ST.
These were reported as part of SPH’s circulation numbers even after the arrangement ended in February 2021.
As instructed by an unnamed individual, Y was charged a nominal sum from November 2021 onwards to allow the 5,000 copies to continue being reported in SPH’s circulation numbers.

6. Airline copies​

From October 2018, an unnamed airline had an arrangement with SPH where it paid SPH each month for unlimited digital downloads of various SPH media and news titles such as ST, BT, Lianhe Wanbao, Shin Min Daily New, Lianhe Zaobao, Berita Harian and Tamil Murasu.
About 2,500 daily digital copies were reported in SPH’s circulation numbers, although only about 110 to 220 copies were downloaded daily.

7. Agency subscriptions​

SPH had an agreement with two agencies from Oct 1, 2019 to Sept 30, 2022, where it supplied about 4,500 digital coupon passes to each agency for a three-year access to ST online on the smartphone app and Web browser at a certain price.
Due to system constraints, two subscription codes were created per pass, with one subscription recorded at full price and the other at a 100 per cent discount, resulting in a double-counting of digital copies reported in the circulation numbers.

8. All-in-one subscription packages​

These packages were introduced in 2011, and provided subscribers with print and digital copies. Around 2016, some subscribers asked that the print copies not be delivered, but still paid the same amount for the package.
SPH continued to print these copies, which were likely disposed of, and reported them in its circulation numbers.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Ridout Road bungalow rentals: CPIB finds no corruption or wrongdoing by Shanmugam, Vivian​


CPIB said it found that no preferential treatment was given to ministers K. Shanmugam (left) and Vivian Balakrishnan and their spouses in the rental transactions. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Grace Ho
Deputy News Editor

June 23, 2023

SINGAPORE – A Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) probe, ordered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has found no evidence of corruption or criminal wrongdoing in the rentals of Ridout Road state properties by ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan.
The CPIB’s findings were submitted to Parliament on Wednesday afternoon by PM Lee, together with a report of a review he had asked Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean to conduct.
In its report to PM Lee, CPIB said it also found no preferential treatment given to the ministers and their spouses, and no disclosure of privileged information in the process of the rental transactions involving two black-and-white bungalows.
“There was no evidence to suggest any abuse of position by the ministers for personal gain,” said the CPIB, whose involvement in the matter was publicly disclosed for the first time on Wednesday.
The bureau had been directed by PM Lee to investigate the matter, as it reports directly to the prime minister and has the necessary powers to ascertain any corruption or criminal wrongdoing.
But CPIB discovered a “lack of precision” in the Singapore Land Authority’s (SLA) use of the term “guide rent” with respect to 26 Ridout Road, which was rented by Mr Shanmugam, who is Minister for Law and Home Affairs.
Thus, an earlier statement SLA made on May 12, saying the offer by Mr Shanmugam was above the guide rent, was incorrect.

“In fact, the rental Minister Shanmugam paid was equal to the correct guide rent on the property,” CPIB said in its report.
It found that the issue did not result from ill intent on the part of any SLA officers involved, and it found no evidence of any intentional abuse of position in the valuation.
A separate report by Mr Teo concluded that both ministers, and the public officers and private sector intermediaries involved, had conducted themselves properly in the two transactions.

“There was no abuse of power or conflict of interest resulting in the ministers gaining any unfair advantage or privilege,” the report said.
“Furthermore, the process of renting out the two properties did not deviate from the prevailing SLA guidelines and approaches in renting out black-and-white bungalows for residential purposes.”
The Attorney-General’s Chambers has agreed with the findings and recommendations, and directed that no further action be taken as the facts did not disclose any offence. The investigation into the matter is closed.
PM Lee has accepted the two reports, and ordered that they be published and tabled in Parliament as a miscellaneous paper. The relevant parliamentary questions on the matter will be addressed next Monday.

The reports by CPIB and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on the property rentals will be published and tabled in Parliament as a miscellaneous paper. PHOTO: ST FILE

26 Ridout Road​

The reports noted that the property, with an original land size of 9,350 sq m, had been vacant since December 2013.
In January 2017, Mr Shanmugam asked the then deputy secretary (DS) at the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) for a list of a few properties available to the public to rent. Those he visited all had a “for lease” sign displayed prominently at the gates.
A year later, in January 2018, he appointed a property agent to represent him for the rental transaction. By then, 26 Ridout Road had been vacant without attracting any bids for more than four years.
During a site visit, Mr Shanmugam noticed thick and overgrown vegetation on an empty plot of land adjacent to the property. He expressed concern to SLA that this could pose public health and safety risks as there could be snakes, fallen trees and mosquitoes among such overgrown vegetation.
Mr Shanmugam did not want the adjacent land, and offered to maintain it at his own cost. But he preferred to exclude the adjacent land from the tenancy, as there would be legal obligations attached to including this land.
SLA’s view was that the tenant’s responsibility should not extend to maintaining the area beyond the property boundary.
Thus, if Mr Shanmugam were to maintain the adjacent land at his own cost, the piece of land would have to be included in the tenancy of the property. This would make it clear that the tenant, rather than SLA, would bear the legal obligations and cost of maintaining the land.
SLA then fenced the adjacent land within the property boundary, bringing the land size to 23,164 sq m.
The cost of site clearance, replanting of greenery and fencing was $172,000 – a sum initially borne by SLA and subsequently to be recovered from the tenant’s rent.
Separately, SLA also undertook essential repair works for the property that cost $515,400. As the landlord, it is SLA’s responsibility to ensure that the property is habitable, said the report.
Mr Shanmugam himself paid $61,400 to build the car porch. He also stated in his interview with CPIB that he paid more than $400,000 for additional improvement works not covered by SLA’s restoration works.
He signed the tenancy agreement of 3+3+3 years in June 2018.
After the first three-year term, it was renewed in June 2021 for a second three-year term, with the rental maintained at $26,500 a month as determined by SLA, considering the prevailing market conditions then.
But CPIB discovered a lack of precision in SLA’s use of the term “guide rent”, which is intended to be the minimum rental to be achieved.
SLA had originally assessed the guide rent to be $24,500. Its rationale was that on top of $24,500, it intended to charge the tenant another $2,000 to recover the amortised cost of works to clear and incorporate the adjacent land.
This would bring the total minimum rental to the correct value of $26,500.

31 Ridout Road​

The property had been vacant for five years before two unsuccessful bids were made below the prevailing guide rent – $12,000 in July 2018 and $5,000 in August 2018.
Dr Balakrishnan’s wife Joy had seen a “for lease” sign at 31 Ridout Road. She contacted the SLA’s appointed managing agent (MA) on Sept 11, 2018, and the MA named an asking rent of $19,000.
The SLA’s leasing department accepted the lease proposal because the final secured rent of $19,000 was not below the prevailing guide rent of $18,800.
Dr Balakrishnan, who is Minister for Foreign Affairs, said in his interview with CPIB that he paid more than $200,000 for additional improvement works to the state property.
The tenancy agreement for 3+2+2 years was signed by Mrs Balakrishnan in October 2019.
The tenancy was granted upfront, as Mrs Balakrishnan had committed to undertake improvement works totalling more than $200,000.
After the first three-year term, she requested and was granted a renewal of another term of 3+2 years.
The rental for the second term was increased to $20,000 a month, taking into consideration the prevailing market conditions in 2022.

SM Teo’s report​

Mr Teo’s report, which was intended to address wider potential process or policy issues beyond the scope of CPIB’s investigations, noted that such properties are mainly rented out through open bidding or direct tenancy.
State properties with low demand, like 26 and 31 Ridout Road in 2018 and 2019, were leased via direct tenancy. This meant that the prospective tenant would be considered if the submitted bid was not below the guide rent, and the tenant met the stipulated financial and letting criteria.
The report noted that as Mr Shanmugam is the Law Minister, and MinLaw oversees SLA, a conflict of interest could have arisen if he had remained in the chain of command exercising authority over the renting out of 26 Ridout Road.
“However, Minister Shanmugam had removed himself from the chain of command and decision-making process. (He had) informed the then DS/MinLaw that he would recuse himself of any discussion related to the rental of the property,” the report stated.
“Minister Shanmugam also instructed him to approach the then Senior Minister of State in MinLaw, Indranee Rajah, in the event any matter had to be referred to the Minister.”
Mr Shanmugam, it added, also informed Mr Teo that if the matter had to go beyond Ms Indranee, she would approach Mr Teo.
There was no matter raised by SLA to MinLaw during the entire process, it noted.
“Minister Shanmugam had thus recognised the potential conflict of interest, duly declared it to SM Teo, and taken effective steps to eliminate this potential conflict and to prevent any actual conflict from arising.”
As for 31 Ridout Road, there was no conflict of interest because Dr Balakrishnan’s responsibilities did not include SLA.
CPIB also noted that no preferential treatment was given in the process of the rental transaction.
On whether the ministers benefited from any privileged information, CPIB pointed out that the lease availability of both properties at the time was made known to the public.
Both had advertisement signs displayed prominently at the gates, and No. 31 was listed on the State Property Information Online website.
On whether the ministers benefited unfairly from favourable rental rates, in 2018, the rental per floor unit area for No. 26 was $30.94 per sq m per month.
This was comparable to that of other Ridout estate properties, ranging from $26 to $33 per sq m per month.

The rate for No. 31 was $23.05 per sq m per month, slightly lower than the $25 to $33.33 per sq m per month for other Ridout estate properties in 2019.
But this was due to the condition of the property, and $23.05 was still comparable to other properties in average condition at the time.
“In summary, the rental of the two properties did not deviate from the prevailing SLA guidelines and approaches in renting out black-and-white bungalows for residential purposes,” said the report.

In its conclusion, the review made three key points.
First, the guide rents for both properties were from professional valuers, based on well-established valuation principles. The rental paid by the tenants was not below the respective guide rents.
Second, the extent of works done before handover was comparable to that done for other similar properties.
For 26 Ridout Road, additional land clearance works were done to the adjacent land to address the disamenities.
Third, the tenancy periods granted were in line with the tenancy policy for black-and-white bungalows, which was to allow a longer period of tenancy where the tenant had invested substantively in improvement works to enhance the properties.
Both ministers, it noted, kept within the maximum 3+3+3 tenancy period at any one time.
“This episode highlights the paramount importance of political office-holders and public service officers understanding and upholding the key principles of acting with integrity at all times, to abide by the spirit and not just the letter of the rules,” it said.
It added that maintaining high standards of integrity and accountability, both in the Government and nationally, demands constant effort.
“Ultimately, the integrity and quality of Singapore’s system of government depends on our collective efforts, generation after generation, to instil strong values in our people, especially the men and women in politics and public service, to continue serving with integrity and excellence, even when no one is looking.”



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Government has right to terminate funding for SPH Media if wrongdoings are found: Josephine Teo​


The Government will intervene if there is misconduct or mismanagement of public funding, said Mrs Josephine Teo. PHOTO: MCI

Jean Iau

July 7, 2023

SINGAPORE – The Government will step in and has the right to terminate funding for SPH Media Trust (SMT) if misconduct or mismanagement of public funding and serious wrongdoings are found in the future.
Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo told Parliament on Thursday that the first tranche of funding to SMT was disbursed in March.
She pointed out that this was after the events described in a report on investigations that found that Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) had overstated its circulation figures. There was no public funding involved then.
Mrs Teo was responding to six MPs and Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai who filed questions on SMT following a report by the organisation’s audit and risk committee published on June 21, which found that SPH had overstated its daily circulation numbers, among other findings.
Mrs Teo said the Government will intervene if there is misconduct or mismanagement of public funding.
“In this regard, we have built in safeguards that allow the Government to conduct our own ad hoc audits. If serious wrongdoings are found, we have the right to terminate funding.”

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) will also be reviewing the terms of the funding agreement, including the key performance indicators (KPIs) and the amount of funding at the mid-term juncture, she added.

The findings by SMT’s committee concluded that some of the matters could constitute offences. A police report has since been filed.
The committee’s report also listed ways SMT will improve its internal controls and enhance its risk management. They include commissioning external parties to look at its governance, control and compliance.
Mrs Teo said on Thursday that MCI is committed to working with SMT to overcome the challenges of disruption caused by readership moving online and succeed in its transformation plans.

The Government will continue funding SMT at the amounts it has committed to, she added.
In February 2022, Mrs Teo told Parliament that SMT will receive funding of up to $180 million annually over the next five years.
She said on Thursday that even with dozens of news sources easily available, audiences in Singapore consistently turn to the mainstream media when they need something they can trust.
Citing the Digital News Report 2023 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Mrs Teo said that trust levels in all the SMT’s major titles remained much higher than the global average, with 73 per cent of respondents expressing trust in The Straits Times. This was up by three percentage points from 2022.
This is against the backdrop of the erosion of trust in news globally, from an already modest 42 per cent in 2022 to 40 per cent in 2023.
“Trusted news media made possible by quality journalism is a public good we cannot compromise on. It is more important than ever when the environment is full of disinformation and sensationalised news,” said Mrs Teo.
She noted that the challenge is even more pronounced for vernacular publications, which have smaller readerships, yet it is critical to preserve them. “They are an essential part of our multicultural society and unique identity, and give voice to our ethnic communities.”

On the circulation report, she said the Government acknowledges SMT’s seriousness in investigating the concerns and making the findings public.
The matter is now before the police and the focus should be on ensuring that SMT discharges its public duties responsibly on an ongoing basis, she added.
This, however, does not mean that the Government has no additional expectations of SMT in light of the circulation incident.
Mrs Teo added that at the leadership level, the management and board have demonstrated commitment to changing legacy practices. The Government expects SMT to persist in addressing internal weaknesses and systematically follow up on the required changes, she said.

The minister noted that the circulation data issue emerged because SMT was conducting its own review and due diligence following the transfer of the media business from SPH Limited in December 2021.
She said the Government welcomed the plans SMT has set in motion, including instituting internationally accepted benchmarks and extensively reviewing its governance and control measures.
“This is an ongoing process, and MCI will work closely with SMT to ensure these measures are implemented,” she added.
Mr Ang Wei Neng (West Coast GRC) asked if the funding formula for SMT involved circulation numbers as a KPI, or if there was a KPI for SMT to increase circulation. He also asked why the names of the company and the staff involved in the potential offences were not released to the public.
Mrs Teo said that circulation is no longer as relevant as media moves online. It is not circulation that matters but reach, which measures how often people come into contact with the contents of a particular title.
“The KPIs, therefore, that we have included in the funding arrangement include the total reach and engagement of SMT’s full range of products with a focus on their digital platforms because... the whole purpose for funding SMT is to ensure that the digital transformation is successful,” she said.
SMT is required to submit regular reports on its KPI performance, which must also be independently audited, and if the KPI targets are not met, the amount of funding will be impacted, said Mrs Teo.
She noted that the full set of findings, including the names of the companies and the people involved, were released to the police.
“As to who will eventually have to be held liable under the law, these things will need to take their natural course. It is for the relevant authorities, after they have completed their investigations, to determine what information to publicly disclose and when to do so, so as not to affect the outcome of the investigations, so that will be something that has to be left to a later date,” said Mrs Teo.
MP Hany Soh (Marsiling–Yew Tee GRC) asked if public confidence and reach in SMT titles have been affected since the details of SPH’s circulation incident came to light.
Mrs Teo said that in her engagements with SMT, the company was concerned about this.
She believes it is why SMT took pains to conduct a thorough investigation and make the findings public.
Since SMT is now receiving public funding, it will be held accountable and scrutinised both by the MCI as well as by the public, she added. MCI will rely on independent reports such as those carried out by Reuters, but also have its own studies.
“This accountability in relation to funding will include the extent to which SMT has been successful in its transformation, especially towards digital media. It will also be held accountable for maintaining trust.”


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FTX blow-up is ‘an aberration’ in early stage investments: Temasek CEO​


(From left) Temasek’s chief investment officer Rohit Sipahimalani, deputy chief executive Chia Song Hwee, executive director and CEO Dilhan Pillay and chief financial officer Png Chin Yee at the annual Temasek Review on July 11. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Claire Huang
Business Correspondent

July 11, 2023

SINGAPORE - The blow-up of disgraced American cryptocurrency exchange FTX is “an aberration” in early stage investments, Temasek Holding’s chief executive said, adding that it is “very difficult” to determine how an investment will turn out from the start.
In early stage investing, one has to accept the binary outcome of the investment, said Mr Dilhan Pillay, who is also Temasek’s executive director.
He said in the case of FTX, which resulted in the group writing off its US$275 million (S$369 million) bet on the firm, the blow-up was to do with what is perceived to be individual actions, in a reference to FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
Bankman-Fried is accused of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as orchestrating the theft of billions of dollars of customer assets, following the collapse of FTX in November 2022.
Temasek said in late May that it would cut the pay of its investment team and senior management as a result of the FTX debacle, although no misconduct was found. The one-off pay cut was reported to have been carried out.
Speaking at the Singapore state investor’s annual review on Tuesday, Mr Pillay said the investment team and senior management decided to take a pay cut because of the reputational damage from the FTX incident, particularly as the implosion came so soon after the investment was made. Temasek had pumped money into FTX across two funding rounds from October 2021 to January 2022.
When asked why no one was let go as a result of Temasek’s poor investment in FTX, Mr Pillay said: “If you were to start to punish people beyond what we’ve done, who would want to be an investor?”

He added that as an investor, one takes calibrated risks, and “as long as you’ve done the work required to make the investment, the committee approves it, it goes forward”.
However, should an investment turn sour and negatively impact Temasek’s reputation, more punitive actions such as pay cuts could be taken, Mr Pillay said.
This is “to remind ourselves that every time we do something, the issue is not just the financial risk associated with the investment, it’s the reputational risk associated with us, and we take that very seriously,” he said.

Mr Pillay noted that most of Temasek’s investments have done well and very few have done very badly, like FTX. Others had started off performing well but became progressively worse, either due to external market conditions or internal conditions.
The state investor had held a 1.5 per cent stake in FTX and the investment constituted 0.09 per cent of its $403 billion portfolio as at end March 2022.
The group was one of the exchange’s largest external investors, alongside Sequoia Capital and Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. In November 2022, Sequoia wrote down the full value of its US$214 million investment in FTX.
Mr Rohit Sipahimalani, Temasek’s chief investment officer, said at the briefing that “FTX clearly was a situation we’re all disappointed with”.
He said Temasek caps the exposure to early-stage companies at 6 per cent of its total portfolio, of which half are venture capital funds and the other half comprise over 200 companies that included FTX.
“We invested in FTX because at that time, it seemed like a company having good technology, it was rapidly gaining market share and all the checks with regulators suggested that they were very regulatory compliant and wanted to get licensed everywhere, so all that led us to invest in that company,” said Mr Sipahimalani.

He added that lessons have been learnt and that the group has enhanced its due diligence processes in the hopes of avoiding such situations in future, while “recognising that fraud is something that is difficult to protect against completely”.
Looking ahead, the group has built what it calls the “Temasek operating system” as part of its 2030 strategy.
This refers to a suite of specialised, next-generation capabilities in five areas – artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cyber security, data and digital, and sustainable solutions.
Temasek’s deputy chief executive Chia Song Hwee said these capabilities will be essential for the future and could differentiate the group as a value-adding investor and shareholder.
For now though, the group is trying to understand more about the business-to-business applications of AI and its investment in this area is “still a very small portion” of the portfolio, he said.
Mr Sipahimalani said the group will continue to invest in established tech companies as it is clear they will be winners, but said Temasek is less excited about investing directly in some of the start-ups for now as their revenue models are unclear and valuations are high.


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Indranee to address Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin’s hot mic incident at next parliament sitting​


Mr Tan Chuan-Jin said he had apologised to Workers' Party MP Jamus Lim for using “unparliamentary language”. PHOTO: GOV.SG

Natasha Ann Zachariah

July 13, 2023

SINGAPORE – Leader of the House Indranee Rajah will address Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin’s comments caught on a hot mic at the next sitting of Parliament.
“As this matter concerns parliamentary conduct, I will address it at the next parliamentary sitting,” said Ms Indranee in response to questions from The Straits Times.
Her remarks come after a video of Mr Tan that started circulating earlier this week.
In it, he is heard muttering “****ing populist” on the microphone during the first day of debate on the President’s Address on April 17.
This is after Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim finished a speech of about 20 minutes on doing more to help the lower-income groups here.
On Tuesday morning, Mr Tan said in a Facebook post that he had to listen to the recording as he “did not recall the occasion”. He said he had apologised to Associate Professor Lim for using “unparliamentary language”.
“When I listen to speeches made, like everyone, I do form views on them. What was said were my private thoughts which I had muttered to myself and not to anyone,” said Mr Tan.

“However I should not have expressed them aloud or in unparliamentary language, and I apologise for that. I have also spoken to (Prof Lim)... to make that apology as well, which he has kindly accepted.”
Prof Lim commented on Mr Tan’s post, saying the Speaker had called him and that he has accepted the apology.


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Presidential candidate talking rubbish.
How would the Sinkies know which cases the PM approved to be investigated and which cases the PM said to close?

S’pore has never had a PM who prevented CPIB from doing its work: Tharman on Iswaran probe​


Presidential hopeful and former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on a walkabout in Teck Whye on Saturday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Anjali Raguraman and Judith Tan

July 15, 2023

SINGAPORE - The Singapore system is one that is transparent and it has never had a prime minister who prevented the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau (CPIB) from doing its work.
Presidential hopeful and former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said this on Saturday, while speaking to reporters during his campaign trail in Teck Whye.
He was responding to questions from the media regarding the CPIB probe into Transport Minister S. Iswaran.
“We’ve never had a Prime Minister (who) prevents the CPIB from doing its work. If ever the day comes, the president will be there...that’s the Singapore system,” he said.
He stressed that anything to do with integrity and incorruptibility is taken seriously, and that CPIB is given full rein.
He said: “It may not matter to some other countries, but Singapore is different and Singapore has to be different, because we don’t have much else.
“We’ve got our people with our skills and talents, much more now than when we started, but ultimately it’s the Singapore system.”

He added: “That’s what makes Singapore special, that’s what makes us admired around the world.
“So each time there’s a setback, treat the setback as an opportunity to strengthen the system, to display full transparency.”
On his friend and long-time colleague, Mr Iswaran, Mr Tharman is confident he will cope with the situation.

He said: “It’s not the end of his life or end of his future. He will go through with this. But let the investigation take its course, and let us not make judgments at this point. The system works and it must work.”
The former Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, stepped down from public service last Friday after four decades to run for the Singapore presidency.
The veteran economic policymaker has several other community engagements on Saturday, including a korban meat distribution and a Singapore Indian Development Association volunteers appreciation ceremony.

CPIB had confirmed on Friday that Mr Iswaran was arrested on Tuesday, released on bail, and had his passport impounded.
CPIB had said on Wednesday Mr Iswaran was assisting them with an investigation into a case it had uncovered.
He was arrested on the same day as tycoon Mr Ong Beng Seng, founder and managing director of Hotel Properties Limited. Mr Ong was also released on bail.
Mr Iswaran was instructed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to take leave of absence until the investigation is completed.
The Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday that Mr Iswaran will remain in Singapore during his leave of absence and he will have no access to any official resources and government buildings.
Meanwhile, CPIB said Mr Ong was granted a request to travel overseas with his bail quantum increased to $100,000.
When he returns, he must report to CPIB and surrender his passport to them.


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Pritam queries Government’s approach to recent issues​


Jean Iau

August 2, 2023

SINGAPORE - Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on Wednesday called out the Government for either being slow to clear the air or less than upfront with Singaporeans when it had to deal with potentially embarrassing issues in its current term.
The Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general also contrasted how Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had exercised sensitivity in dealing with former Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin’s extramarital affair, while the Committee of Privileges did not even consider sensitivity as a factor in accounting for the WP’s delay in addressing former MP Raeesah Khan’s lies in Parliament in 2021.
“The Prime Minister did not bat an eyelid in giving the Leader of the Opposition a sermon on Confucian ethics, morality and shame even though at the material time, he would have been aware of the affair between Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and MP Cheng Li Hui,” said Mr Singh (Aljunied GRC).
Rising to speak after PM Lee’s ministerial statement on the corruption probe into Transport Minister S. Iswaran and the affair between Mr Tan and Ms Cheng, Mr Singh cited three examples in which he felt the Government was not forthright with Singaporeans: the Ridout Road saga, Mr Iswaran’s arrest and the use of TraceTogether data for criminal investigations.
He then reiterated his suggestion for the Government to appoint an ethics adviser.
On the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s (CPIB) probe into Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan renting state-owned bungalows, Mr Singh took issue with how the public was informed about the investigations only on June 28, more than a month after PM Lee had directed the bureau to investigate the matter on May 17.
He noted that PM Lee did not disclose the probe in his May 23 statement, which announced that Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean had been tasked to review the matter.

Responding, PM Lee said CPIB investigations are usually not announced at all.
“When I asked the CPIB to investigate, it is my prerogative, I don’t have to tell anybody. What’s important is that I did conduct an investigation and the investigation results were published.”
In Mr Iswaran’s case, CPIB had announced on July 12 that the minister was assisting with investigations.

The bureau subsequently said on July 14 that Mr Iswaran had been arrested on July 11.
PM Lee said CPIB would take into account operational reasons in deciding what information to reveal, and that ministers would not go beyond what the bureau was prepared to say unless there were strong reasons to do so.
“In terms of transmission of information, we are pursuing a red herring,” he added.

Mr Singh also asked why Mr Tan’s case was handled differently from that of former Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer, and why so much time was needed to plan for the care of residents in Mr Tan’s constituency.
Replying, PM Lee said there was a reporting relationship between Mr Palmer and the People’s Association staff member whom he had an affair with.
He also said he had been open about when he found out about Mr Tan and Ms Cheng’s affair.
As for the delay in taking action, he said: “I’ve explained that Marine Parade was a consideration, but all things considered, we should have moved earlier. The important thing is we moved, and we brought it out, and we are open about it.”

On the issue of Ms Khan, PM Lee said the matter is now before the police, and he would leave it to them to pursue.
Mr Singh replied that the matter was about the point PM Lee raised on sensitivity. “The Prime Minister believes that it is appropriate to respond sensitively given the circumstances at hand, and the point I was making was we were dealing here with someone who said she had been raped, and I did not sense that sensitivity coming from the PAP (People’s Action Party) at the time.”

Mr Shanmugam rose to point out that it was Mr Singh who had brought up the word “rape” during the Committee of Privileges inquiry, and said: “So much for sensitivity.”
Responding, Mr Singh said his point was about the selective standards applied by the ruling party on sensitivity, while his use of the word “rape” during the inquiry in 2021 was to show how serious the matter was.
After a further exchange on Ms Khan’s case, Speaker Seah Kian Peng reminded MPs that the ministerial statement was about Mr Iswaran’s graft probe and the resignations of Mr Tan and Ms Cheng.
On the TraceTogether incident, Dr Balakrishnan, who was then in charge of Singapore’s Smart Nation drive, objected to Mr Singh’s characterisation that the incident was part of a pattern of the Government not being forthright.
He questioned if the timeline really showed a lack of transparency, recounting how he was unaware of the prevailing legislation when he assured the public in June 2020 that TraceTogether data would not be used by law enforcement agencies.
In October that year, a member of the public wrote to him questioning if this was true. Dr Balakrishnan directed his staff to check the following month and then decided to rectify the matter.
As Parliament did not sit in December that year, then Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan responded to an MP’s question in January 2021 and clarified that the police could use TraceTogether data in investigations under Section 20 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Dr Balakrishnan said he had acted in good faith at all times. “I have tried to make sure that in design, in execution and in coordination of a complex matter in an emergency, I have been transparent and forthright with the people, and I object to your characterisation and use of an old debate which was settled in Parliament to suggest that there is a pattern of delay, prevarication and obfuscation.”


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CPIB did not initially reveal Iswaran’s arrest as it wanted to establish more facts: Chan Chun Sing​


Chin Soo Fang
Senior Correspondent

August 2, 2023

SINGAPORE - The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) did not initially announce that Transport Minister S. Iswaran had been arrested as it wanted first to establish more facts of the case, including hearing his side of the story, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.
CPIB had said on July 12 that Mr Iswaran was assisting with investigations into a case it had uncovered.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong took reference from CPIB’s press release on July 12 in their statements to the media that same day, Mr Chan told the House on Wednesday.
“This was the proper thing to do because ministers, including the prime minister, should not reveal more than what the law enforcement agencies are prepared to disclose,” he said, adding that while ministers do have the final decision-making power, they usually take the law enforcement agency’s advice.
Mr Chan, who is Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, noted that Hotel Properties Limited issued a statement two days later on July 14, saying its founder and managing director Ong Beng Seng had been “given a notice of arrest” by CPIB. This prompted the media to ask CPIB about it.
“By then, investigations had been ongoing for three days and CPIB had obtained more facts,” said Mr Chan. “CPIB made the operational judgment call that it would be appropriate at that point to confirm that both Mr Ong and minister Iswaran had been arrested.”
What law enforcement agencies, including CPIB, reveal at any point in time takes into account operational considerations for cases, including preserving the integrity of evidence, protecting the confidentiality of ongoing investigations, and avoiding impact on other related parties, he added.

Mr Chan also addressed other matters raised by various members of Parliament, including Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC), Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC), Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai, Mr Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) and Mr Dennis Tan (Hougang).

Q. Do all CPIB investigations require the PM’s concurrence, and is CPIB obliged to seek the PM’s concurrence to open formal investigations into potential offences that it has uncovered?​

A: Mr Chan said that while CPIB reports directly to PM Lee, it is functionally independent and does not require his concurrence to conduct its investigations.
“In this case, (CPIB) kept the Prime Minister informed and sought his concurrence to initiate formal investigations of minister Iswaran because the investigations concerned a Cabinet minister,” he said.

In the event that the prime minister refuses to give his consent to a CPIB investigation, the director of CPIB can go directly to the elected president for agreement to proceed with the investigation, he added.
“In reality, we have never had a prime minister who has impeded CPIB’s work,” Mr Chan noted.

Q. Why did ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan continue with their duties while being investigated by CPIB over the Ridout Road issue, while Mr Iswaran was placed on leave of absence?​

A: There is a crucial difference between both cases, said Mr Chan, noting that Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan had asked for an independent investigation into their rental of state-owned colonial bungalows.
When PM Lee tasked CPIB to investigate, he had no reason to believe that the ministers had committed any wrongdoing, and therefore saw no need to put them on leave of absence during the investigation, Mr Chan added.
The CPIB investigation subsequently cleared both ministers.
“The Prime Minister could have asked the ministers to take leave of absence should evidence have surfaced during the investigations that warranted it,” Mr Chan said.
In Mr Iswaran’s case, PM Lee’s assessment was that it was necessary to suspend Mr Iswaran from his official duties while the investigation took place, Mr Chan said.

Q: Was Mr Iswaran’s gazetted “leave of absence” from July 7 to 9 related to the CPIB investigation?​

A: Mr Chan said Mr Iswaran took leave during this period for personal matters. The leave of absence arising from the CPIB investigation was effected only on July 12.
Iswaran’s monthly pay cut to $8,500 until further notice amid CPIB probe: PM Lee
Recap: PM Lee on CPIB’s Iswaran probe, MP resignations

Q: Will the code of conduct for ministers be reviewed?​

A: Mr Chan said the general principles of the code – which has been in place since 1954 and was last updated in 2005 – remain valid.
“We will continue to review and update the code of conduct for ministers regularly, taking into account evolving circumstances and needs,” he said.

Q: What are the avenues for public officers to report wrongdoing, and what are the measures in place to protect whistle-blowers?​

A: A public service officer who is unsure about a request that he has received – because it seems inappropriate or unrelated to official work – should consult and seek guidance from his supervisor, Mr Chan said.
If the request came from his supervisor, or a more senior officer, the officer can escalate the matter appropriately through the chain of command – including directly to his permanent secretary, the head of the agency, the head of civil service, or the minister in-charge of the public service.
Mr Chan said there is an established internal disclosure policy framework within the civil service, where officers can report any wrongful practices to their permanent secretaries. Statutory boards have their own equivalent processes.
All reports are treated with utmost confidentiality, and every effort is made to protect the officer’s identity, he added.
Between 2020 and 2022, no report that surfaced through this channel was referred to CPIB for investigation.
Under the Public Service Protocol for reporting corruption, officers should directly report to the police or CPIB when they learn of any act of corruption or have reason to believe it may have been committed in their ministries, Mr Chan said.
He added that of the 83 cases that CPIB registered for investigation in 2022, 13 – or 16 per cent – were from anonymous sources.
Four public-sector officers were prosecuted for graft offences in 2022, he said, noting that such cases form a small portion of the cases CPIB investigates each year.

Q. Are political office holders and civil servants required to declare meals received, and what is the value for which such declarations are required?​

A: Civil servants must declare to their permanent secretaries any gifts they receive from external parties on account of their official position or work, Mr Chan said.
Officers may be allowed to retain gifts valued below $50 if doing so does not affect the integrity of the civil service, he added.
Those who want to retain gifts valued above $50 must pay the gift’s assessed market value to the Government.
Officers who are invited to meals may accept when there are legitimate work-related reasons, or when it is impractical or impolite to reject the meal, Mr Chan said.
Civil servants should declare and seek approval from their permanent secretaries if they receive any meal invitation, “especially if they assess that the value of the meal or hospitality is incongruent with the professional nature of the meeting and may give rise to perceptions of influence peddling and conflict of interest – real or perceived”, he said.
Political office holders adopt a similar spirit and principles in their official activities, he added.