S’poreans surprised by high-level CPIB probe

Chua Yini

Does high pay necessarily deter corruption?

The removal of the chiefs of Singapore’s civil defence force and anti-narcotics unit following investigations into allegations of “serious personal misconduct” has riled Singaporeans, especially in wake of the recent ministerial salaries debate.

While specific details of the allegations have not been released, some Singaporeans wonder if the high salaries of senior civil servants are good deterrents against corruption and abuse of high power.

Darren Ong, 21, found the news “shocking” due to the fact that senior civil servants are involved.

“They (senior civil servants) are supposed to be role models for their subordinates and the public. I have lesser confidence in the integrity of the civil service now,” said the Singapore Management University (SMU) student, although he added that it might be an isolated case.

The first-year student also said that whole issue made him wonder if civil servants “deserve the high salaries” and whether high salaries are “enough to deter someone from misconduct”.

On the other hand, Noorasiah Yahya, 26, said that civil servants here deserve a high salary for the work they do, but feels that the current amount is “exorbitant”.

With regards to the ongoing investigation, the freelance coach said: “I think the public should just let the relevant authorities do their work and not make assumptions or give them unnecessary pressure to execute a stiff punishment.”

Similarly, Candy Leow, 22, is hesitant to judge without more information about the probe.

Said the fourth-year NTU student: “I think the authorities probably have the appropriate motives and reasons which prompted the investigations, so the light will come out of it anyway.”

However, she added that when it comes to long-term public service, it is “extremely important to recruit people of the right caliber and character”.

Some Yahoo! readers are of the opinion that the incident shows Singapore’s anti-corruption system works, as seen from Jussharing’s comment, which questioned why no one has praised the authorities for identifying corruption and taking action.

“Instead the focus is on high paid salaries. Even then they have been in public service for so many years and rose to these ranks- earned income. Therefore I don’t see the relevance of high salaries and corruption…” he wrote.

Similarly, Ditto commented: “PM doing a major Chinese New Year spring cleaning? Good, clean up more, as there are some swept under the carpets, ‘old dust and cobwebs’…”

Ministers will receive a pay cut of between 30 and 50 per cent, which according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be adopted with effect retroactive to 21 May last year, when the new government was formed. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has also asked the Public Service Division to study the relevant principles of the new framework and how it may be applied to the pay of civil servants.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), former Singapore Civil Defence Force commissioner Peter Lim and former director of Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) have been assisting CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) with the investigations, which began in December last year in the case of Ng and in January in the case of Lim.

Their responsibilities have been covered by their respective deputies. The position of SCDF commissioner will be taken over by Eric Yap Wee Teck, 43, who is currently the senior director of emergency services there, while the new director at CNB will be 49-year-old Ng Ser Song, who is presently director of the police intelligence department.

MHA said that more facts will come to light with investigation, and both men will be accorded due process and a fair hearing.

Although it did not disclose more details about the probe, The New Paper has reported the involvement of a female executive with a company that supplied IT-related products and services to government offices.

The investigation was launched following an internal audit, TNP reported.