Straits Times: Singapore signs anti-corruption declaration

SINGAPORE: Singapore has signed a global anti-corruption declaration and outlined steps it will take to increase transparency and crack down on corruption and money-laundering.

The declaration, signed by countries attending the inaugural Anti-Corruption Summit in London, sets out high-level goals to combat corruption.

Representing Singapore was Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah, who spoke at the summit about the Republic’s approach to fighting corruption.

“Corruption is a scourge and a root cause of many of the world’s problems. Singapore takes a holistic approach to combat corruption. Most importantly, our strong political leadership and will in creating a culture of zero-tolerance to corruption is key,” she said.

“While Singapore has had some measure of success, we will continue to work with partners from various sectors of society to eradicate corruption, and learn from the best practices of other countries.”

Singapore also submitted a country statement outlining the steps it will take to increase transparency and combat money-laundering and corruption.

These include ensuring law enforcement agencies in Singapore have timely access to ownership information of companies and other legal entities, as well as sharing information with other law enforcement agencies to detect and disrupt money-laundering.

Singapore also pledged to review penalties against “professional enablers” of tax evasion, and to work with other countries in establishing an International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre.

It will also strengthen asset recovery collaboration with other countries and ensure that all efforts are made to return illicit assets to victims.

SINGAPOREANS EXPECT AND DEMAND A CLEAN SYSTEM: PM LEE

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also contributed an essay on Singapore’s experience in combating corruption to an anthology of essays launched at the summit by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

He put Singapore’s success in eradicating corruption down to four factors: Inheriting a “clean and working” system from the British colonial government; founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team’s determination to keep the Government clean and incorruptible; strong political will to instiutionalise a robust and comprehensive anti-corruption framework; and a society and culture that eschews corruption.

“Singaporeans expect and demand a clean system. They do not condone giving or accepting ‘social lubricants’ to get things done,” Mr Lee wrote in his essay.

“Singaporeans trust that the law applies to all and that the Government will enforce the laws without fear or favour, even when it may be awkward or embarrassing. Businesses have confidence that, in Singapore, rules are transparent and fairly applied.”

Still, Singapore is “under no illusions” that it has permanently and completely eradicated corruption, PM Lee wrote.

“Corruption is driven by human nature and greed. However strict the rules and tight the system, some individuals will sometimes still be tempted to transgress. When they do, we make sure they are caught and severely dealt with,” he said, citing the case of the assistant director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) who was charged with misappropriating S$1.7 million.

The nation’s leaders are determined to uphold the “highest standards of integrity from the top level of the Government down”, he added.

In 1996, rumours spread that Mr Lee, then the Deputy Prime Minster, and Mr Lee Kuan Yew had received improper discounts on property purchases. The Prime Minister, then Mr Goh Chok Tong, ordered a full investigation, which found that there had been nothing improper. The issue was brought to Parliament, which held a full debate lasting three days.

“In his statement Mr Lee Kuan Yew said: ‘I take pride and satisfaction that the question of my two purchases and those of the Deputy Prime Minister, my son, has been subjected to, and not exempted from, scrutiny … It is most important that Singapore remain a place where no one is above scrutiny, that any question of integrity of a minister, however senior, that he has gained benefits either through influence or corrupt practices, be investigated.’”

PM Lee wrote: “Trust is slow to build, but fast to lose. We have spent more than 50 years building up confidence in Singapore. The integrity of the Government, the system and the men and women in charge has been key to Singapore’s success. We are determined that that integrity and reputation must never be undermined and will long remain a competitive edge and a source of pride for Singapore.”

- CNA/cy