There is no need to change framework relating to an MP under investigation: Indranee Rajah 

05/02/2024

The Leader of the House Indranee Rajah said the issue of former Transport Minister S. Iswaran’s Member of Parliament allowance has been addressed, and no further action is needed.   

Responding to a question in Parliament on Feb 5, Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, referred to a motion that Progress Singapore Party’s Hazel Poa moved in September last year. She had called for Iswaran to be suspended as an MP so that he would not receive his MP allowance during his leave of absence while under investigation. 

Ms Indranee had asked then to defer dealing with this until investigations had concluded.    

She said this issue has been addressed as Iswaran had resigned from Cabinet and as an MP prior to being charged. He also said he would repay his minister’s salary and MP allowance from the start of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s probe in July 2023, she noted.  

“In these circumstances, the specific issues regarding Mr Iswaran which the House was concerned with have been addressed,” she added. In his parliamentary question, Member of Parliament Henry Kwek Hian Chuan had asked whether, in view of the outcome of the investigations regarding Mr Iswaran, it is necessary to further consider the matter as resolved by this House on 19 September 2023. In September last year, NCMP Ms Hazel Poa from the Progress Singapore Party had moved a motion to suspend Mr Iswaran from the service of Parliament for the remainder of that session of the 14th Parliament. Ms Poa’s objective in so doing, which she expressly stated at that time, was to stop Mr Iswaran from receiving his MP allowance, as he was on leave of absence and was not carrying out his MP duties. 

On whether MPs under investigation should be suspended, Ms Indranee argued that  to do so would be effectively pre-judging that the MP has committed a wrongdoing even before the details of the investigation are known. 

“Everyone who is alleged to have committed a wrongdoing, including MPs, should be given due process,” she added. 

Most Parliaments, including the United Kingdom and New Zealand, do not generally suspend MPs under investigation.  

The Workers’ Party and the NMPs supported this position in the debate last year. 

On withholding allowance for MPs on leave of absence, Ms Indranee said that leave of absence does not imply any wrongdoing unlike suspension which operates as a sanction or penalty.  

Also, unlike suspension, Parliament cannot put an MP on leave of absence.  It is up to the MP or his or her party to require him or her to do so. 

“If the House were to withhold the MP’s pay pending the investigations or the outcome of the case, we would encounter the same problem that arises for suspension. The House would be prejudging the issue”, she added. 

Government will review the terms of the F1 contracts: Grace Fu 

On appointing a Committee of Inquiry (COI) to investigate Mr Iswaran’s case, Ms Indranee said the House should wait for court proceedings to conclude before anything else needs to be done. 

In response to questions from several MPs on the F1 contracts, Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations Grace Fu said the Singapore Tourism Board is conducting an audit of the 2022 edition of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix. 

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is also reviewing the terms of the deal between STB and Singapore GP to organise the F1 night race here to safeguard Singapore’s interest, she added. 

Government looks at three areas regarding rules on gifts to public servants: Chan Chun Sing 

Several MPs also asked questions relating to rules on gifts to public servants, and whether the current system of checks and balances on senior Government officials and whistleblowing processes are adequate.  

Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing said that the rules that Government officials abide by should not be so onerous that officers cannot operate, or so lax that discipline and trust in the system gets eroded.  

Mr Chan, who is also the Education Minister, said that the Government looks at three areas when such issues arise. First, whether it was a case where the rules were clear, but were flouted or ignored, and if so, then the rules need not be adjusted, but action needs to be taken against the offender.  

If it was a case where the rules were unclear, then they should be clarified or simplified. However, not all “grey areas” can be clarified, and officers should understand not just the letter of the rules, but also the spirit of them.  

If it was a case where the rules were too lax, or if it was a new situation not envisaged or covered by the rules, then the rules should be updated.  

Mr Chan said that under the rules on gifts, an officer may be allowed to retain a gift less than S$50 without paying for it, if doing so does not affect the integrity of the civil service. 

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

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

“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.”