PAP MPs file Parliamentary questions on SPH Media saga & Keppel case


Earlier this month, circulation figures of various SPH Media Trust (SMT) titles were found to be inflated by between 85,000 and 95,000, or 10 to 12 per cent of the reported daily average circulation.

This was done through means such as counting lapsed contracts in circulation data, double-counting subscriptions.

Copies were also printed, counted for circulation and then subsequently destroyed.

It was announced in March last year that the Government will fund SMT S$900 million over the next five years, though it was reported that the Ministry of Communication and Information has not disbursed the funding.

Party MPs file questions

Concerned over the development, our Party MPs filed several parliamentary questions. The issue will be debated on Feb 6, 2023, when Parliament reconvenes.

Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC)

He asked whether the Government can provide some insight from the internal report received from SPH Media regarding the alleged inconsistencies in the circulation data of their publications; and how will these inconsistencies impact the Government’s commitment to fund SPH Media.

Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC)

She asked what is the outcome of the Ministry’s review of its funding for SPH Media Trust, in light of the findings in SPH Media Trust’s internal review of circulation numbers of its publications.

Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC)

He asked whether the Government will adjust the grant given to SPH Media as the Government’s commitment to fund SPH Media is predicated on inflated circulation data.

Audit and Risk Committee to investigate further

Today (Jan 20), the SPH Media Board announced that it has tasked its Audit and Risk Committee to investigate the issues more fully, and consider what further steps, if any, need to be taken.

It also revealed that the inflated numbers can be attributed to:

  • 49,000 average daily copies (5 per cent of total daily circulation then) of news titles
    recorded as circulation numbers but not distributed, which were of particular
    concern. The majority of these were digital copies.
  • 5,000 average daily copies recorded after contracts had lapsed;
  • 17,000 average daily copies recorded as a result of a failure to check that
    reported circulation numbers were accurate against actual usage tracked in
    the system; and
  • a possible discrepancy of 19,000 average daily copies, which included a barter
    arrangement with another publisher.

SMT had earlier taken action against the staff involved in December last year: four of them have since left the company, and three were served warning letters.

A Ministry of Communications and Information said today: “MCI has requested for SPH Media Holdings Board to share these findings when ready and expects full cooperation on this.”

Keppel Offshore & Marine case

Last Wednesday (Jan 11), the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), issued stern warnings to six former senior management staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) for allegedly conspired to bribe officials of Brazilian state-owned corporation Petrobras.

In its press release, the bureau added that under the global resolution led by the Department of Justice of the United States of America and involving Brazil and Singapore, a conditional warning in lieu of prosecution was issued to KOM.

KOM has paid a total fine of US$422 million and fulfilled all obligations under the conditional warning.

Party MPs file questions

Likewise, our Party MPs posed questions to the Government.

Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC)

He asked with regard to the stern warnings issued to six former staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited whether the reasons for issuing stern warnings in lieu of prosecution for offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1960 can be elaborated upon; and what is the assessed reputation damage to Singapore arising from the case.

Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang SMC)

He asked what is the Government’s response to concerns that the penalty is too light, as some offenders have been jailed for much smaller sums of money; and in view of the multinational nature of the alleged transactions, what measures can be taken to improve the deterrence and prosecution of such cross-boundary corruption.

Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok SMC)

He asked whether KOM’s parent company then, any officer of the parent company at the material time or any other entity or person was investigated for facilitating the bribery of Petrobas officials under the Prevent of Corruption Act 1960; and if so, what are the findings from the investigations; and what is the conclusion from these investigations.

Cover photo credit: Google Map and Keppel