Ridout in summary: Four ministerial statements laying out the facts 

There are very strict rules which we set out regarding how our members and political office holders are to behave. We expect that conduct must always be above board

The matter of — and allegations about — the Ridout property rentals by Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan have hence been a Party-wide concern this past month. 

Four Ministers gave statements regarding Ridout in Parliament today (Jul 3): Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on his urgent review of these processes and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong for the facts about how exactly properties like Ridout’s are managed, and Ministers Shanmugam and Vivian on their rental processes, 

Our MPs also pressed Ministers Shanmugam and Vivian in Parliament today with pointed question about the matter. 

Teo Chee Hean: The Ministers eliminated conflict of interest  

“On 22 May 2023, Prime Minister Lee tasked me to review the matter, and establish whether proper processes had been followed, and if there had been any wrongdoing,” stated SM Teo. 

It was a three-fold task. 

SM Teo was to establish the facts surrounding the renting out of the two Ridout properties. 

He was also to establish if there was any wrongdoing, including any abuse of power or conflict of interest, resulting in the Ministers gaining unfair benefit. 

Third, he had to establish if the proper policies over the renting out of the two properties were followed, and if there were any process gaps or lapses 

Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) — Singapore’s highest authority against corruption – was brought in to thoroughly and independently investigate the matter. “The Review concluded that the Ministers did not benefit from any privileged information,” stated SM Teo. 

“The Review also established that the rental rates paid by both Ministers were at fair market value and not below market valuation. There was no evidence that the Ministers were given favourable rental rates due to their positions,” he added.  

MPs Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok SMC) and Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir SMC) questioned if the Ministers benefitted from privileged information when renting the properties.  

In response to these queries, SM Teo noted that the review established that the rental rates paid by both Ministers were at fair market value and not below market valuation. There was no evidence that the Ministers were given favourable rental rates due to their positions, he added. 

MP Murali and MP Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) also pressed if the process complied with the Code of Conduct for Ministers

Here, SM Teo stated that Minister Vivian’s Ridout rental did not have any conflict of interest since his responsibilities do not include the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which oversees Ridout property rentals. As SLA is under the Ministry of Law, Minister Shanmugam had also “removed himself from the chain of command and decision-making process entirely”. 

“Minister Shanmugam had recognised the potential conflict of interest, duly declared it to me, and took effective steps to eliminate this potential conflict,” stated SM Teo.  

Edwin Tong: The SLA complied with procedures

Indeed, the SLA treated the Ministers just like any other tenant. 

SLA accepted rental offers from the Ministers. which is within the Guide Rent. CPIB found that SLA applied the rules fairly for both rental transactions without any disclosure of privilege information. There is also no evidence to suggest any abuse of position by the Ministers for personal gain. 

Consistent with the approach taken by SLA to all other properties, the properties were also both marketed according to the usual methods by private managing agents (MAs), added Minister Tong, in response to MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC).  

“Both offers came with a commitment to make substantial capital expenditure to renovate and enhance the properties,” stated Minister Tong in response to further questions by MPs Murali and Sitoh. 

“SLA would be able to retain these enhancements at the end of the tenancy period. This would add value to any subsequent tenancy.”

Source: MCI 

Vivian: No preferential treatment, bore property upgrade costs  

“At all times, we were scrupulously careful to ensure that everything was above board,” stated Minister Vivian on his Ridout rental.  

He conveyed that the agent from Colliers, and SLA staff involved in this transaction conducted themselves professionally and with utmost integrity in all their engagements with them. 

Also, Minister Vivian’s rental was not an example of preferential treatment at all — in fact the initial rental offer which the family put in was rejected.   

As the property was in an advanced state of disrepair, his family had to undertake substantial improvement works, such as repairing the roof, toilets, floor, staircases as well as removing termites, uprooted trees and snakes from his rental property.   

“We know that this cannot be recovered when the tenancy expires.”  

Shanmugam: Zero part in the decision-making process 

And Minister Shanmugam shared exactly how he made sure that his rental was above board: he removed himself completely from the decision-making process. 

“Yes, SLA is a MinLaw stat board. But I took myself completely out of this personal matter,” he said. 

Source: MCI 

“I told my agent: Everything had to be done strictly in accordance with the rules,” he said. 

Then he spoke with both the then-Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah and the then-Deputy Secretary at MinLaw. He told them about renting a Black and White property and that he would recuse himself from these matters. He also agreed with them that SMS Indranee would manage any issues resulting and that SM Teo would be the person to consult then. 

“This way, there would be a chain of command which did not involve me for SLA to check with SMS Indranee and SM Teo if there were issues on which SLA wanted guidance.” 

Minister Shanmugam also called out the untruths circulating about his rental. 

“For example, the falsehood that SLA built a car porch for me.”  

“Or that I had cut down trees illegally.” 

“Or that I am paying less than market value.” 

The CPIB has established these and other allegations to be untrue,” stated Minister Shanmugam.  

On integrity and accountability  

“This episode demonstrates the paramount importance of maintaining high standards of integrity and accountability in the government and nationally,” said SM Teo.  

“The extensive questions posed by Members from both sides of the House reflect the importance we place on the integrity and quality of Singapore’s system of government.”  

“Let us continue, generation after generation, to instil strong values in our people, especially the men and women in politics and public service, to continue serving with integrity and excellence, even when no one is looking,” added the Senior Minister.