Dec 30, 2017

OIL, BRIBES, POLITICIANS:WHAT HAPPENED TO ‘CLEAN’ SINGAPORE?

7 comments

 

Singapore’s state-backed corporate heavyweights – collectively known as “Singapore Inc” – will face tough questions in 2018 on their commitment to the Lion City’s vaunted anti-corruption ethos, observers say, as a shocked public comes to grips with a graft scandal that has engulfed oil rig builder Keppel Corp.

 

One political observer went as far as to describe 2017 as “annus horribilis” for the city state’s corporate sector. That sentiment echoed the hand-wringing among government critics that followed last week’s announcement by US prosecutors that Keppel’s offshore and marine arm, Keppel O&M, agreed to pay a US$422 million settlement to avoid a criminal trial for bribing Brazilian officials.

 

Keppel O&M, according to court documents released by the US justice department, engaged in a scheme between 2001 and 2014 to pay US$55 million in bribes to win 13 contracts with Petrobas and Sete Brasil – two Brazilian oil companies deeply mired in the country’s wide-ranging Operation Car Wash graft scandal. Keppel O&M is the world’s biggest builder of oil rigs.

A series of corporate scandals in Singapore have put the pressure on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo: AFP

 

The US$55 million topped the nearly US$19 million in bribes that were involved at a scandal at state-linked shipbuilder Singapore Technologies Marine, making it the biggest corruption case to hit one of the so-called Singapore Inc companies linked to state sovereign wealth firm Temasek Holdings.

 

The case – which culminated this year with seven people including the company’s former president being jailed – had already raised worries over whether the Lion City was slipping in its intolerance for graft.

 

The country’s squeaky clean image, buttressed by its high rankings in international anti-corruption indices, had already taken a beating when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in July was forced to emphatically refute allegations of nepotism and abuse of power levelled by his own siblings.

 

Local political observer Eugene Tan said the latest case raised “serious questions about the Singapore corporate sector’s commitment to anti-corruption and ethical business dealings.”

 

“Given the scale and the length of illicit dealings, it raises legitimate questions of corporate governance, board leadership and stewardship,” said Tan, a law professor at the Singapore Management University.

Lee Boon Yang Photo: AFP

 

“The scandal caps a year where Singapore’s branding, reputation and integrity have been negatively impacted. 2017 has been Singapore’s annus horribilis.”

 

Online, questions were swirling over contradictory statements Keppel O&M had made on its involvement in the scandal. When reports of the probe first broke in 2016, Keppel O&M denied any of its executives authorised bribes paid by its Brazilian agent Zwi Skornicki.

 

But in its statement following the December 22 settlement, the company acknowledged the US justice department findings that the corrupt payments were “made with knowledge or approval” of former executives.

 

Also under scrutiny were court documents that showed the settlement was reached after one of Keppel O&M’s lawyers cut a deal with the justice department and cooperated with investigations.

 

The case was resolved without trial because Keppel O&M agreed to enter into a deferred prosecution settlement, while its US subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

 

Singapore’s attorney general’s chambers and anti corruption agency said the settlement was part of a “global resolution”, and that local authorities had served the company a “conditional warning” in lieu of prosecution given the substantial cooperation it had rendered during investigations. Investigations into individuals involved in the case “are ongoing,” the two agencies said in a statement.

 

Pritam Singh, one of six lawmakers from the opposition Workers’ Party in the 89-seat legislature, said on Facebook that he was “most surprised” the two agencies did not provide “any substantive information on this scandal” apart from its media statement.

 

The opposition party was planning to quiz Lee and finance minister Heng Swee Keat when parliament next sits on January 8, Singh wrote on Friday, describing the development as “what must be one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of Singapore’s government linked companies”.

 

Elsewhere, political blogger Andrew Loh said questions remained on why the company’s top brass – including its chairman Lee Boon Yang – were not aware of the extent of the graft.

 

Lee is a former cabinet minister and concurrently holds the chairmanship of Singapore Press Holdings, the publisher of The Straits Times newspaper.

 

The court documents said the bribes were paid between 2001 and 2014. Lee Boon Yang took over as chairman in 2009. His predecessor, Lim Chee Onn, also a former minister, helmed the company from 2000 to 2008.

 

Lim Chee Onn Photo: AFP

 

“If the chairman and CEO and the board did not know, then they must be grossly incompetent,” Loh wrote.

 

Jeffrey Chow, the former Keppel lawyer who pleaded guilty, had reportedly said in his plea hearing that he became aware of the graft when he drafted contracts with a company agent who was being overpaid by millions of dollars.

 

“I should have refused to draft the contract that we used for paying bribes and I should have resigned from Keppel,” Chow said, according to a Reuters report quoting court transcripts.

 

The deferred prosecution agreement published on the US justice department website said Keppel O&M received “full credit for its substantial cooperation” into the investigations.

 

Among other things, seven employees implicated in the saga were “separated” from the company, and it imposed some US$8.9 million in “financial sanctions” on 12 former or current employees, the documents said. The US$422 million settlement will be distributed between the US, Brazil and Singapore.

 

A Keppel O&M spokesman told This Week in Asia the company was “deeply disappointed” by the saga, and had taken steps to make sure it would not happen again.

 

Still, it will take time for Lion City to restore its pristine international reputation left tarnished by 2017, observers say. “Keppel’s conduct smears the Singapore brand and suggests Singapore is not exceptional at all. It owes Singaporeans an apology,” said Tan, the law professor.

 

Source: South China Morning Post

 

 

 

Dec 30, 2017

Lee Boon Yang was a fucking vet, what did you expect????

 

Dec 30, 2017

LMFAO............will Pinky Lee sue SCMP till its pants drop for insinuating the People's Adultery Party is now less honourable?

 

In any case its time for them to go shopping for bigger sturdier closets at IKEA, the ones they have at the moment are not going to able to contain the skeletons any much longer from what I gather.

Dec 30, 2017

The perception that Singapore is"clean" and it being truly clean are two separate things, the disparity between them is getting more obvious after ah gong's departure.

Dec 30, 2017

Oxley Lee would do well now to seek advice from Jib Kor; after all he managed to magically sweep 1MDB entirely under the carpet and even boost his popularity ratings thereafter, in the meanwhile also plotting to shush up Mahathir and Anwar.

Jan 1, 2018

Excuse me, but when was SG ever clean? LOL

Jan 1, 2018

 

Keppel Corp’s ‘good governance’ includes concealing information from shareholders, sanctioning 17 nameless current and former employees

 

As the PAP continues to prevent further embarrassment to its elites, governance at Keppel Corporation has now turned into a joke.

 

On 30 December, KepCorp’s O & M unit reported that 17 current and former employees have been sanctioned over the Brazil bribery case.  CNA

Or perhaps fewer employees were engaged in criminal acts over 13 years which resulted in the record US$422 million fine for a GLC? TNP

 

Investigations must have been ongoing for months but were only disclosed yesterday.

 

As a subsidiary of public-listed KepCorp, the government-linked company appears to have no shareholders to answer to.

 

Keppel: “For legal reasons, Keppel is unable to comment on any individual employee, or the specific penalties imposed against individuals.”

 

The truth: 2 of its employees involved happened to be former KOM CEOs.  They are: 1. Choo Chiau Beng, also former Keppel Corp CEO  2. Chow Yew Yuen

 

A record criminal fine has been paid by Keppel and part of this will be borne by taxpayers.  KepCorp should come clean by disclosing the names of all involved and action taken against each employee.

 

It’s a totally ridiculous situation where a public-listed GLC could suka suka conceal information belonging in the public domain.

 

Are Singaporeans so stupid to believe that imposing sanctions on nameless employees in the biggest GLC bribery case is good corporate governance?

 

https://likedatosocanmeh.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/keppel-corps-good-governance-includes-concealing-information-from-shareholders-sanctioning-17-nameless-current-and-former-employees/

 

 

Jan 4, 2018

"GOOD GOVERNANCE" INDEED! THUMBS UP!

New Posts
  • Facebook user Gerard Ong has joined the chorus of criticism against the DPM with a critique that has garnered over 400 reactions and more than 300 shares on social media. A lengthy Facebook post criticising Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat over his dismal performance in Parliament last week is trending online. DPM Heng, who is expected to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and become Singapore’s fourth head of government after the next election, is widely considered the head of the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) fourth-generation (4G) slate of leaders. Last week, he introduced a motion in Parliament to get Workers’ Party (WP) politicians Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim to recuse themselves from the financial matters of their Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC). Instead of scoring a win for his party, Mr Heng fumbled. Multiple parties who were present in the House and those who watched the proceedings online noted that Mr Heng struggled to defend his motion when confronted with the WP’s position that they will be appealing the High Court decision in the apex court. A visibly flustered Mr Heng eventually called for an abrupt time-out in the middle of the proceedings. His hour-long speech introducing his motion was also called “rambling” and his closing remarks were considered “garbled” by those who were in the gallery. Prime Ministe Lee Hsien Loong was also seen looking exasperated as he coached Mr Heng on what to say. Facebook user Gerard Ong has joined the chorus of criticism against the DPM with a critique that has garnered over 400 reactions and more than 300 shares on social media. In a post published last Thursday (7 Nov), Mr Ong noted that this is not the first time Mr Heng has faced a roadblock during a parliamentary clash with WP chairman Sylvia Lim: “In March 2018, it was the trial balloon saga where Heng Swee Keat (HSK) asked Sylvia Lim to apologise and withdraw her allegation on the timing of the GST hike. Now he is asking her and Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from the town council’s financial matters. “Being a legal practitioner, Sylvia knew the motion was not legally binding and refused to do so. Besides if she did, it would clearly indicate to some degree that they were dishonest and untruthful in safeguarding public funds that were entrusted to them. “In both incidents HSK went head-on into two roadblocks when it was totally unnecessary for him to do so. Under parliamentary rules he did not breach any rules. But HSK should have known that Sylvia was not going to budge as she knew where she stood by the rules of the house as well. “What HSK must understand is when one apologises it really means one has done wrong. If Sylvia feels that she has done no wrong and has not profited from it why should she make statements or carry out actions to indicate her wrong doing? “In this case the courts have decided but the ruling will only be absolute when the appeal is heard and the final ruling given. This is called due process of law which in essence prohibits the government from taking any action against its citizens or agents of the government until a final verdict is delivered by the apex court.” Asserting that Mr Heng has shown once again that “he is still an amateur at the game,” Mr Ong wondered why he chose this course of action and speculated about whether Mr Heng was trying to prove himself to his party members. Pointing out that neither the current PM or the immediate past PM were very good examples of strong leaders, the netizen asserted that one who is high-handed is not necessarily a good leader: “HSK has again shown his hand that he is still an amateur at the game. I fail to understand why he adopted this latest course of action. I wonder who was his audience? Was it the Prime Minister, the cabinet and fellow PAP MPs? Was he trying to show them that as heir to the PAP throne, he is indeed a worthy successor to LHL? “What he should realise is LHL and GCT are not very good examples of strong and decisive PMs. The only reason GCT survived was because LKY was Senior Minister and Minister Mentor from 1990 to 2011, he provided the backbone to these two PMs. “Well we know why LHL became PM and how he has performed. But at least LHL has pretty decent oratorical skills and is articulate. “HSK must now realise that being high-handed does not mean you are a good leader. Look at what people are saying on the internet of his recent spat with Sylvia. A good leader knows when to open up and when to take decisive action.” Opining that Mr Heng, who also serves as Finance Minister, may be good with numbers but may not be a good leader for the people, Mr Ong added: “Good leaders always take calculated risks and aim to win. Poor leaders always stumble because they have not thought through their intended decisions and its ramifications. HSK is in essence a numbers man but not a good leader of people. “Richard Hu who was Finance Minister from 1985 to 2001 was a classic example of a behind the scenes numbers man. Although he was eloquent, he was not a leader in the true sense of the word. “Goh Keng Swee was a brilliant economist and blue-skies man but was inept as a public speaker. They were in reality good planners and visionary political leaders. Men like them knew they were never good PM material.” Calling Mr Heng an “uninspiring leader who is unable to galvanise his followers,” Mr Ong said that the DPM’s “lack of presence” and poor communication skills worry him given the geo-political situation in the region: “HSK from his recent showings is an uninspiring leader who is unable to galvanise his followers. He lacks presence and his communicative skills are below par. This worries me as the world has become a dangerous place. “The geopolitical situation in the Asia Pacific has become less stable. The rise of China and its military prowess is a cause of worry as China knows that whatever we may say or do, we are still in the American camp. “The wheels are still churning up north as well. If you have watched recent political developments you will see alliances being struck between old enemies. As yet we still do not know who will succeed Mahathir. “In Indonesia, Joko Widodo has appointed his political rival, Prabowo Subianto as his Defence Minister as well as others who were against the President in the hustings. These developments could affect the immediate political relationship over areas such as airspace management, defence arrangements, border controls and the like. “At a time like this we need a decisive leader who is smart at navigating and taking on the challenges which will surely come our way. A leader who is also compassionate and one who puts his country, his people and party (in that order) before himself. “In this day and age of electronic media broadcasts and TV, a leader must have excellent communicative skills. This is definitely a veto quality in my books. “Why Singapore did well from 1965 onwards was because we had LKY and a very able cabinet in our formative years. When LKY spoke, you can’t help but listen. Not only was he bright but he was street- smart and competent as well. His cabinet comprised able and selfless men who were up to the job. “They knew how the game was played. In the past there was no internet and social media in existence, so we all pulled the oars together. But those days are gone. Singaporeans are better educated, and more vocal. We are better informed and more exposed to the world at large. “Many of us have become “critical lovers” of Singapore. Our political leaders must remember that when we criticise our leaders it does not mean we are disloyal to our country or ungrateful for what the PAP has done for Singapore.” Pointing out that the times have changed and the people want more of a say in how the country is run, Mr Ong said that it may be good for Singapore in the long-term to elect an capable opposition in Parliament so that the ruling party will also rely on capable and decisive leaders: “But times have changed, the world has changed and our leaders must go with the change. Being high-handed in governance is passé We all want to have a better say in how our country is run. “In the next election, if members of the opposition are voted in, they will also be held accountable for their words and deeds. Perhaps it may be good for us in the long run to have a capable opposition in parliament as it will make for a better PAP with capable and decisive leaders who will understand that a one-party state is a thing of the past!” http://theindependent.sg/hsk-is-an-uninspiring-leader-who-is-still-an-amateur-at-the-game-criticism-against-dpm-heng-trends-online/
  • Last Saturday (9 Nov), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access into Singapore or immigration privileges. The news was picked up by the Straits Times (ST) and reported the following day (‘ Free Trade Agreements have created more jobs for Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing ‘, 10 Nov). Essentially, ST reported: Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing has come out in defence of Singapore’s free trade agreements (FTAs), saying these have helped more Singaporeans get employed in higher-skilled jobs. He made the point yesterday as he refuted criticism that one such agreement, between Singapore and India, had given Indian professionals unfettered access to jobs and citizenship here. Such falsehoods, circulated online and in WhatsApp chat groups, were aimed at scaring and dividing Singaporeans at a time of economic uncertainty, he said. Some purveyors of such untruths had gone further to play the racial card. Warning against such behaviour, he said:“The Government takes a very serious view of these attempts to rattle Singaporeans and divide our society.” ST also raised the point that CECA critics have pointed to India taking advantage of the “intra-company transferee” clause to move large number of Indian nationals to work here. ST defended the government saying that the government has said there is a stringent definition for intra-corporate transferees and additional criteria that make it harder to game the system. It then quoted the example that to qualify under CECA, intra-corporate transferees must have worked for their company for at least one year before being posted to Singapore and they are only allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding five years . What ST said was incorrect. TOC points to actual CECA text showing otherwise Yesterday (11 Nov), TOC also published news of what Chan said on Saturday with regard to Indian nationals working in Singapore under CECA (‘ Chan didn’t disclose that there is no economic needs test or quotas on agreed services under CECA ‘). TOC points to the exact text of Chapter 9 on “ MOVEMENT OF NATURAL PERSONS ” agreed by both countries in CECA. TOC highlighted that CECA allows “intra-corporate transferees” to, in fact, work for up to total of 8 years in the host country. And added, “Note that for intra-corporate transferees, it is defined as an employee who has been employed for a period of not less than either six months in company and one year industry experience or three years industry experience immediately preceding the date of the application for entry.” Hence, under CECA, the total number of years an Indian national can work in Singapore as an “intra-company transferee” is 8 and not 5 years , and the person only needs to be recruited by the company in India for just 6 months and not 1 year before his or her transfer to Singapore. TOC also highlighted that there is no quota requirement imposed on intra-corporate transferees and under Article 9.3 of CECA, all the “intra-corporate transferees” are to be exempted from any “labour market testing” or “economic needs testing”. “To top it all, Article 9.6 even allows the ‘intra-corporate transferees’ to bring in their spouses or dependents to work here too,” TOC shared. ST says sorry After TOC’s article was published yesterday, ST corrected itself and apologised for its erroneous report. Its original online article was later updated late yesterday night with the correct figures: This morning (12 Nov), ST also published a retraction (‘ What it should have been ‘) with the following text: In Sunday’s report, “FTAs have created more jobs for S’poreans: Chan”, we said intra-corporate transferees must have worked for their company for at least one year before being posted to Singapore. We also said they are allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding five years. These conditions for transferees are set out in the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services. But under the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), such transferees are required to have worked for their company for a period of not less than six months, among other things. They are also allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding eight years. We are sorry for the error. It tried to explain its error by saying that it was referencing WTO’s general agreement. Unemployment rate going up for Singaporeans Meanwhile, the Manpower Ministry released the Labour Market Report Advance Release for Q3 last month, showing that even though growth of total employment was higher, the number of retrenchments rose over the quarter with unemployment rates inching up. The overall unemployment rate increased over the quarter, from 2.2 to 2.3%. For Singaporeans, the unemployment rate was higher rising from 3.2 to 3.3%. Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said, “This suggests that mismatches are widening. It could be jobseekers not having the skills to access available jobs, or jobs being insufficiently attractive.” https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2019/11/12/st-says-sorry-for-publishing-wrong-info-on-how-long-indian-nationals-can-work-in-sg-under-ceca/
  • Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Saturday (9 Nov) that the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access into Singapore or immigration privileges. Claims that the bilateral agreement has cost job opportunities for Singaporeans aim to stoke fears in times of economic uncertainties, said Mr Chan. Media reports over Chan’s statement noted that there have been falsehoods surfacing in relation to free trade agreements (FTAs). Channel News Asia noted one of such falsehoods is that CECA has allowed Indian nationals to take PMET (professional, managerial, executive and technician) jobs away from Singaporeans. Mr Chan in his statement to the press, clarified that all FTAs, including CECA, place no obligations on Singapore with regard to immigration. “Indian professionals, like any other professionals from other countries, have to meet MOM’s (Ministry of Manpower’s) existing qualifying criteria to work in Singapore. This applies to issuance of Employment Pass, S Pass, and work permit. “Second, CECA does not give Indian nationals privileged immigration access. Anyone applying for Singapore citizenship must qualify according to our existing criteria,” said Mr Chan. In response to claims that Singaporeans have lost out on PMET jobs, Mr Chan pointed out that the country’s network of FTAs has, in fact, increased these jobs by 400,000 to 1.25 million since 2005. However, he did not state how many PMET jobs have been created from CECA. Not to mention, that there was an explosion in numbers of Permanent Residents during the period that Chan had stated. Clearly, the new PRs and new citizens converted from PRs, are those who take up PMET jobs as Immigration and Checkpoint Authority states that only a holder of an Employment Pass or S Pass is eligible to apply for PR. While Mr Chan acknowledged that economic uncertainties have created anxieties over job security, he asserted that perpetuating fear, is not the right response. “We understand, and we share Singaporeans’ concerns with competition and job prospects in the current uncertain economic environment. But the way to help Singaporeans is not to mislead them and create fear and anger,” said Mr Chan. “The way to help Singaporeans is to make sure that first, we expand our markets for our enterprises. Train our workers constantly to stay ahead of competition. Never allow others to stoke the fears and racial biases of our people. Never do this for selfish personal or political reasons,” he added. Mr Chan said that MOM is aware of companies that have breached fair hiring practices and will weed them out to protect Singaporean workers and businesses. Controversial terms of CECA On 29 June 2005 ,  India and Singapore signed CECA. This free trade agreement not only enables Singapore and India to trade goods freely, it also allows professionals to work in each other country more easily. The CECA was concluded after 13 rounds of negotiation and the Singapore’s side was led by none other than Heng Swee Keat, the current PM-in-waiting, who was then Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry. Heng and his team essentially did the ground work together with their Indian counterparts. They then presented their proposals to the politicians for approval. Some of the areas covered by CECA include: Improved Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, Trade in Goods, Customs, Investment, Trade in Services, Intellectual Property, etc. However, controversial ones include concluding further Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) so as to facilitate the freer movement of professionals between Singapore and India. It helps to recognise each other’s education and professional qualifications so that Indian and Singaporean professionals from the following five professions could be able to practise in each other country: 1. Accounting and auditing 2. Architecture 3. Medical (doctors) 4. Dental 5. Nursing Already, Singapore now recognises degrees of Indian doctors and nurses from certain Indian universities. Then, CECA also enables movement of persons between both countries. In particular, professionals employed in 127 specific occupations will be allowed entry and stay for up to 1 year or the duration of contract, whichever is less. Also, intra-corporate transferees (i.e. managers, executives and specialists within organisations) will be permitted to stay and work in India and Singapore for an initial period of up to 2 years or the period of the contract, whichever is less. The period of stay may be extended for period of up to 3 years at a time for a total term not exceeding 8 years. Politicians ask about issues and benefits of CECA, with no answer provided While Mr Chan professes that CECA brings jobs to Singaporeans and Indian nationals do not steal jobs from Singaporeans, there does not seem to be any data that support his claim. For figures, we know that about 5,400 local professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) were retrenched in 2018. Though it is the lowest recorded level since 2014, against a backdrop of local PMET employment growth of about 34,000, PMET accounted for 79.3% of local retrenchment and 2018 also saw a growth of 11,100 foreign S-Passes across all sectors. Back in 2016 , Workers’ Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera asked the Minister for Manpower about the number of intra-company transferees (ICT) from India that have been approved under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India from the year when the agreement came into effect to the latest year for which data is available. But in response, then-Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said the ministry does not disclose data on foreign manpower with breakdown by nationality, including data on ICTs. This policy of non-transparency remains the same till today. Earlier this year, Dr Tan Cheng Bock stated at the official launch of Progress Singapore Party that his party will ask the government to come up with a balance sheet to account for how Singapore has benefited from the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which it signed with India to allow citizens from India and Singapore to travel to each country to seek employment. “How many local jobs have gone to Indian professionals and how many Singaporeans have gone to India?” asked Dr Tan. In theory, of course, CECA could also benefit Singaporean professionals wanting to work in India but how many Singaporeans really want to work there to earn in rupees? https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2019/11/10/minister-chan-chun-sing-throws-smoke-bomb-on-ceca-concerns-by-stating-ftas-created-more-jobs-for-singaporeans/

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