Thursday, 20 September 2012

CPIB 'helped raise Singapore's standing'

Lee Kuan Yew outlines critical role it played in helping Republic to prosper
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 19 Sep 2012

SINGAPORE'S graft-busting watchdog and its officers have contributed to the country's standing, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said yesterday.

They give confidence to investors, which has led to national progress and prosperity, he said, in hailing their efforts as the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) marked six decades of stamping out bribery.

Mr Lee and his successor Mr Goh Chok Tong were special guests at a ceremony marking the occasion yesterday.

Mr Lee added in a statement: "We must remain vigilant and ensure that Singapore continues to be regarded as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, with a clean public service and businesses that abhor corruption."

Singapore has remained clean despite being in an area where bribery is endemic, he noted, and its challenge is to stay corruption-free.

His mission when he became prime minister in 1959, he recalled, was to establish a clean and efficient government against such a corruption-ridden backdrop.



The CPIB had been set up seven years earlier by the British, but little was done because the CPIB lacked the necessary resources and legal powers, and corruption remained commonplace.

So, then PM Mr Lee set about tightening the laws and entrenching a zero-tolerance stance towards bribery.

Wealth disproportionate to a person's earnings could now serve as corroborative evidence when a person was charged with corruption. Systems to ensure every dollar in revenue was accounted for were established. Instruments to prevent, detect and deter instances in which discretionary powers could be abused were sharpened.

"We... gave CPIB officers more powers of interrogation and to seize documents," he said.

Nobody was exempt, including the prime minister himself, whom the CPIB was directly under.

If the head of government refused to give his consent for the agency to make inquiries into a case, its director could seek permission from the president.

The CPIB, which Mr Lee termed a "tenacious and effective instrument" against graft, has also developed a formidable reputation for thorough and fearless investigations. High-level government officials, including ministers, MPs, senior civil servants and prominent businessmen, have all been probed.

Mr Lee said this was testament to the agency's independence.

They include the case of Teh Cheang Wan, one which Mr Lee recounted in detail in his message in a coffee-table book launched to coincide with the 60th anniversary celebrations.

In 1986, the then National Development Minister offered to pay back $800,000 in exchange for immunity. Teh eventually committed suicide and left a letter for Mr Lee, which is reproduced in the 120-page book.

The most recent high-profile probes involve the former chiefs of the Central Narcotics Bureau and Singapore Civil Defence Force, in which they allegedly obtained sex for contracts.

Mr Lee said the latest cases were new forms of corruption, with sex being exchanged for favourable outcomes, observing that "there is no end to human ingenuity".

Leaders must be above suspicion, he said, and insist on the same high standards of probity of fellow ministers and the officials working for them.

Consultant and former university don Jon Quah, who has carried out research on corruption since 1977, paid tribute to the elder statesman, and said Mr Lee played a very important role in establishing Singapore's zero-tolerance policy to graft from the start.

"That was the right decision, as being a country with no natural resources, the best way to attract investment was to show we did not accept corruption," he said.

Former senior minister of state for law and home affairs Ho Peng Kee said the former PM set a clear and uncompromising anti-graft tone which has become embedded in Singaporeans' DNA.



NEW FORMS OF CORRUPTION
The latest cases are new forms of corruption, with sex being exchanged for favourable outcomes. There is no end to human ingenuity.
- Mr Lee Kuan Yew


STAY VIGILANT
We must remain vigilant and ensure that Singapore continues to be regarded as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, with a clean public service and businesses that abhor corruption.
– Mr Lee Kuan Yew





'My mission was to establish a clean and efficient Govt': Mr Lee Kuan Yew
Published TODAY, 19 Sep 2012

Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who was Singapore's first Prime Minister, wrote a preface for the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau 60th anniversary commemorative coffee table book. Here is the full text:

In a region where corruption is endemic, Singapore has remained clean. From 1959 when the PAP first formed the government, we have stamped out corruption. The challenge is to keep corruption free. We have to rid our society of greed, corruption and decadence. When I became Prime Minister in 1959, my mission was to establish a clean and efficient Government against the back drop of a corruption-ridden region. We set up systems and processes to ensure that every dollar in revenue was properly accounted for: we sharpened the instruments that could prevent, detect and deter instances where discretionary powers could be abused. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) which was under my care has succeeded in keeping the country clean.

The CPIB was established by the British in 1952 to tackle the increasing corruption. However little was done because the CPIB lacked the necessary resources and legal powers. When I took over in 1959, I strengthened the laws and the organisation of CPIB.

We tightened the law on corruption. Wealth disproportionate to a person's earnings would serve as corroborative evidence when a person is charged for corruption. The CPIB was placed directly under the Prime Minister. And if the Prime Minister were to refuse giving his consent for the CPIB to make any inquiries or to carry out any investigations into any person including the Prime Minister himself, the Director CPIB can seek the concurrence of the President to carry on with the investigations. In other words, nobody is exempt.

Over the years, Singapore has established an effective anti-corruption framework. Leaders must be above suspicion. They must insist on the same high standards of probity of their fellow ministers and of the officials working for them. We do not tolerate corruption. CPIB has since developed a formidable reputation for its thorough and fearless investigations. The bureau has successfully dealt with a number of corrupt senior government officials including Ministers, Members of Parliament, senior civil servants and prominent businessmen. This is testament to CPIB's independence. The bureau can discharge its duties in a swift and sure, but firm and fair manner.

The most dramatic case was that of Teh Cheang Wan, then minister for National Development. In November 1986, he was investigated by the CPIB for accepting two bribes totalling $1 million. In one case, it was to allow a development company to retain part of its land which had been earmarked for compulsory government acquisition, and in the other to assist a developer in the purchase of state land for private development. These bribes had taken place in 1981 and 1982. Teh denied receiving the money and tried to bargain with the senior assistant director of the CPIB for the case not to be pursued. He had offered to pay back $800,000 in exchange for immunity. The cabinet secretary reported this and said Teh had asked to see me. I replied that I could not until the investigations were over as I could become a witness. A week later, on the morning of 15 December 1986, my security officer reported that Teh had died and left me a letter:
Prime Minister
I have been feeling very sad and depressed for the last two weeks. I feel responsible for the occurrence of this unfortunate incident and I feel I should accept full responsibility. As an honourable oriental gentleman I feel it is only right that I should pay the highest penalty for my mistake.
Yours faithfully,
Teh Cheang Wan
CPIB has been and is a tenacious and effective instrument against corruption. The bureau and its officers have contributed to Singapore's standing, giving confidence to investors that has led to our progress and prosperity. We must remain vigilant and ensure that Singapore continues to be regarded as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, with a clean public service and businesses that abhor corruption.


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