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Chan Chun Sing: Public officers forbidden from seeking gifts or favours

In response to MPs’ questions spurred from the corruption charges faced by former PAP Minister S Iswaran, Minister Chan Chun Sing emphasized that public officers should avoid seeking gifts or favours that might influence their decisions.

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Public officers must never ask for gifts or favours, especially when they are in a position to influence or affect any decision involving the other party, said Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing in parliament on Monday (5 February).

Mr Chan, who was replying on behalf of the Prime Minister, said that officers must not accept any gifts offered on account of their official position or work.

“Our first instinct must be to decline any unsolicited gifts and return them if possible,” said Mr Chan, who is also the Education Minister.

Mr Chan was responding to Parliamentary questions filed by two PAP MPs, Derrick Goh for Nee Soon GRC and Edward Chia for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC bout rules on gifts to public servants, one of many raised to an ongoing corruption case involving former transport minister S Iswaran.

Mr Chan then explained that if it’s not possible or impractical to return the gift, the officer should declare it.

If the officer wants to keep the gift, he can do so if he pays for it. For operational simplicity, the officer can retain gifts worth less than S$50 (US$37) without paying for them if it does not affect the integrity of the civil service, said Mr Chan.

“But should an officer accept multiple gifts of S$49 repeatedly, I think we know the answer from the spirit of the rule: If such a pattern of behaviour is observed it must stop.”

Iswaran is accused of obtaining items worth more than S$384,000 from billionaire hotelier Ong Beng Seng, such as Singapore F1 Grand Prix tickets and a paid-for trip to Doha. Some of these were allegedly in exchange for advancing Mr Ong’s business interests.

On questions from other MPs about whether the system needs to be reviewed, Mr Chan said that the rules are meant to keep public officers from being compromised but should not be too onerous.

“When an incident happens, we should not have a knee-jerk reaction and immediately tighten or add more rules,” he said.

To understand if the system needs to be updated or tweaked, one needs to know the facts of the case – which is still before the courts, he added.

“While we endeavour to do our best and keep improving at a system level, no system is ever perfect … when incidents happen, we respond decisively and transparently to restore trust and confidence in our system. This is what we have done and this is what we will continue to do.”

And for some matters, judgement will still be required, he said: “Officers should not just understand the letter of the rule, but also the spirit.”

When it comes to meals, Mr Chan said that officers “must have the good sense to know when they are being cultivated and reject such attempts”, but this does not mean that they should not go out and interact with others to understand the business and social communities.

“As a practical measure to protect ourselves. I’ve always advised our officers to avoid attending such events alone, where the risk of being compromised is harder to manage.”

In response to questions on the codes of conduct for public officers, ministers and political office holders, Mr Chan said the rules were reviewed regularly. He also reassured MPs that whistleblowers are protected.

He added that Political office holders are also expected to abide by the rules of prudence issued by the Prime Minister after every general election to all PAP members of Parliament

“If anyone suspects that any of their superiors have been compromised, they can report a suspicious activity to their heads of agencies or beyond the organisation including to agencies like the CPIB (Corruption Practices Investigation Bureau).”

Mr Chan assured the commitment to continuous improvement and learning within the public service and the government.

He mentioned that, through the process of updating rules, refining implementation strategies, and instilling the right ethos and values in officers, lessons will be drawn not only from the specific case mentioned but also from other cases, both local and international.

Cultural Norms and public servants’ code of conducts

In a supplementary question, MP Edward Chia raised the issue of varying business and cultural norms across countries, illustrating that declining invitations to dinners or events may be perceived as disrespectful.

He inquired about the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and training provided to public officers involved in advanced trade relations and attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), as well as the frequency of updates to these training materials.

In response, Minister Chan highlighted the comprehensive training approach that extends beyond rule enforcement to include a focus on the underlying principles.

These principles are elucidated in instruction manuals with practical examples designed to enhance officers’ understanding of the rules.

According to Minister Chan, the code is effectively reinforced through multiple avenues, such as onboarding for new entrants, annual declarations to remind officers of the rules, mandatory annual quizzes, and participation in milestone programs like the Foundation Program for Young Leaders, Management Development courses for supervisors, and Senior Management Program for directors.

Additionally, Minister Chan emphasized the importance of regular discussions and conversations with senior leaders on the values and ethos of the public service. He noted that reminders are consistently provided to fortify these values within the service.

Distinguishing the context for public agencies from that of private companies, Minister Chan underscored that the public service’s primary focus is on governance and providing services to a diverse nation with varied expectations.

Unlike the private sector, which focuses on transactions between private parties, the public sector aims to earn the respect and trust of the public.

He said the goal is to establish a fair system that is transparent and not based on personal connections or the ability to pay for access to public services.

“This is why the public service holds ourselves to high standards of conduct to give confidence to all stakeholders that they will be treated fairly and transparently.”

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Officers should not just understand the letter of the rule, but also the spirit.”

Yes. And by this, Shanmugam should have had the rule book thrown at him for the Rideout Rd B&W bungalow scandal.

If million$ ministers can seek favor of No Blaming Culture excuse for their failures, mistakes, incompetency, etc…. from their Kayu Boss, then this forbidding to seek gifts or favor is clearly just lip service. Nothing less expected from Sia Suay Chan throwing falsehoods, hor.

Remember they also previously preached hara-kiri for those in authority who failed in their duties, yet their biggest Fail-Queens and Fail-Kings are still around, collecting their million$ salary. So it is very clear that they talk big but dun practice big themselves. This is basically called NOT SINCERE.

Every year lunar new year reunion dinner, national day dinner and whatever dinner in every town, the MPs are “invited” to come to eat and enjoy the entertainment, 1+ hour later then leave the scene.
Is all these considered ‘gifts’ under the context of this rule? Is it gullible to think it is just a plain simple dinner where few khakis in one table eat and chat? No other strings to pulled?

“… must never ask for gifts or favours, especially when they are in a position to influence…”

The key word here is “ask”! That means if someone gives, it is OK, aa long as it is nor asking.

So Iswaran did not “ask”, he was given. Let’s close the case and save the COI!

Thank you Mr Chan for highlighting that the PAP party is one of the most honest party in Asia! I am proud to have voted for PAP. I am proud to be a Singaporean. You oppies are traitors voting for weirdos despite what our PAP government has done for you!

We the majority are fine with ministers earning what they deserve. I see nothing wrong for our ministers to be paid as high as our banking CEOs like Mr Pyish or Mr Wee Cho Yaw. They are running a country, much bigger than DBS and UOB!!

I’m utterly shocked that Ah Chan, at one point in his time deemed suitable as PM material, … had to stand on a platform to recite what an official/officer of this regime can or cannot do, … in relation to corruption !!!

Especially, especially considering the fact that they pay themselves this obscene amount of money in comparison to the rest of the world, … as a f**king reason cum solution, to avoid and dispel the temptation of corruption !!!

Pathetic !!! !!!

Didn’t someone sponsored the pineapple election!?

What about the Ridout saga?

So are they backdating the Nassim special discount too …

All these SOPs and annual declarations and what have-year programs have but become cursory and elluded the true principles preached. No???? So we can draw the fact that high salary does not assure us of good man/woman of high morale and steadfast conviction against corruption.There appears to be cracks in the system and such leaks are not detected in time.

So what did the 6 handsome gentlemen at KOM did?
Seeking refuge or asylum?😆😆😆😆🤣🤣🤣🤣

So this is the latest SOP of 2024 ?

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