The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) has thoroughly and independently investigated Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam renting State properties along Ridout Road.
“The investigation did not reveal any corrupt intent on the part of any person, or any inducement given to any individual involved in the processing of the rentals,” reads the CPIB review.
The fact that CPIB conducted this investigation is a significant point.
The CPIB is fundamentally not beholden to any particular Ministry in its mission to investigate any act of corruption in Singapore’s government.
It is the highest authority in the land against corruption: It operates with functional independence and reports directly to the Prime Minister.
An independent investigation by the CPIB
In other words, CPIB discharges its duties without fear or favour — no matter who you are, CPIB will come down hard on you. It is also empowered to investigate any other crimes uncovered during its processes.
Hence the review and its results coming from weeks of deep investigation, and a concurrent review by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean using it to establish the facts of the Ridout case.
“The CPIB conducted interviews with the two Ministers and their spouses, former and current officers from MinLaw, SLA and NParks, property and managing agents, and other individuals who had knowledge on the rental transactions of the two State properties in question,” details the review on the CPIB’s fact-finding process.
Effectively, the Bureau obtained, cross-examined and cross-checked information from every single stakeholder regarding the Ridout properties.
“The CPIB also obtained evidence from documents and other information related to the rental transactions and parties involved,” further detail the review findings.
In fact, Ministers Balakrishnan and Shanmugam personally and immediately requested this independent review of their rental arrangements in the first place (May 23).
“We need this sort of approach, regardless of who is involved, to make sure the system operates with integrity,” said Minister Shanmugam then, when allegations against him and Minister Balakrishan first made their rounds online.
No preferential treatment was given
“In CPIB’s view, the Direct Tenancy rules were applied fairly for both rental transactions,” reads another key finding from the Bureau review.
“CPIB found no preferential treatment given to the Ministers and their spouses, and no disclosure of privileged information in the process of the rental transactions. There was no evidence to suggest any abuse of position by the Ministers for personal gain,” the review continues.
Rather, the review found that Minister Shanmugam in fact took care to upkeep the patch of land adjacent to his rental property. This was to keep the environment free of health and safety hazards like snakes and fallen trees, negotiated with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) through Minister Shanmugam’s property agent, and at the Minister’s own personal cost.
“He had not wanted to lease the additional adjacent land as there would be legal obligation attached to leasing it,” notes the review.
“Minister Shanmugam instructed his property agent that he should not be paying less than his neighbours,” finds the review.
Both ministers did not benefit unfairly from favourable rental rates. According to the guide rents for both properties that were valued by professional valuers based on well-established principles, the rental paid were not below the respective guide rents.
The PAP is fundamentally against corruption
“I can see how, without full facts, some may genuinely have legitimate questions,” said Minister Shanmugam when he first requested for this review.
Indeed, Singaporeans deserve to know the facts — not just the allegations — about this rental of State property.
Singaporeans should also know, then, that Minister Shanmugam took care to be accountable in his dealings.
He recused himself from discussions related to the rental of the property, and removed himself from the chain of command exercising authority over the renting-out of the property.
All these actions — the two concurrent reviews by a senior colleague and the foremost anti-corruption body in the land as well as the self-directed steps taken to ensure accountability — point to two facts: We in the PAP are fundamentally against corruption. We stand for integrity, honesty and incorruptibility.
Our MPs have filed more questions on Ridout for Parliament in July, in fact, furthering the fact-finding process.
Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishan will have more statements on the CPIB’s independent checks and investigations at that point.
The CPIB review on Ridout is available here.