Parliamentary Questions for the Prime Minister

Hazel Asks the Prime Minister

Declaration of Gifts by Civil Servants and Politicians

8 May 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) in 2023, what is the number of gifts declared by civil servants and political officeholders respectively to their Permanent Secretaries that is valued (i) above $50 and (ii) below $50; (b) what is the mean and maximum value of these gifts; (c) how many officers have chosen to retain the gifts; (d) what is the number of meal invitations declared to their Permanent Secretaries; and (e) how many meal invitation requests have been denied.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): Civil servants and political officeholders must not ask for gifts or favours, especially when they are in a position to influence or affect any decision involving the other party. If it is not possible or it is impractical to decline gifts or meals, officers should declare and account for it according to established processes.

For gifts that are less than $50, the officer may be allowed to retain the gift without payment after taking into account considerations, such as conflict of interest. For gifts that are $50 or more, an officer may be allowed to retain the gift if he pays its value to the Government.

In 2023, there were about 3,450 gift declarations made by civil servants and political officeholders. Of these, officers were allowed to retain 60%. About 14% of the declarations were for gifts valued $50 or more. We do not collect data on meal invitations centrally.

Appointment of Returning Officer

7 May 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) who is eligible to be the Returning Officer (RO) for Singapore’s presidential and parliamentary elections; (b) how is the RO selected; and (c) what are the considerations behind the selection of the RO.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): Under the law, the Prime Minister appoints the Returning Officer (RO).

As the RO oversees the conduct of elections, the RO should be a senior public officer with relevant experience, such as having held a senior election appointment in previous elections.

Charges on Merchants using PayNow for Transactions

7 May 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether the charges levied by banks or payment service providers on merchants for using PayNow to receive payments from end-consumers are being monitored and/or regulated; (b) if so, what steps are taken to regulate these charges to ensure that merchants are not to pass on such costs to end-consumers; and (c) whether the Government will consider legislation to prevent merchants from charging end-consumers when they make payments using PayNow, and if not, why not.

Mr Lawrence Wong (for the Prime Minister): PayNow was launched in 2017 to provide a safe, simple and speedy way for individuals and businesses to make payment transactions. Today, more than 300,000 businesses accept PayNow payments. Transaction fees for payments received by merchants from end-consumers are currently waived by the major retail banks, while a minimal fee is charged if the merchant uses additional services like notifications for funds received.

Merchants are not allowed to impose a surcharge on customers who wish to make payments via PayNow. The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), which owns the PayNow scheme, has in place clear rules to prohibit such practice.

Should consumers encounter any PayNow surcharge, they ought to provide feedback to their own PayNow Financial Institution (FI) or ABS. If a merchant is found to have imposed a surcharge in violation of the service agreement, the PayNow FI will take action against the merchant. This may include terminating its payment services to the errant merchant.

Singpass Facial Verification

7 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether any attempts to breach Singpass facial verification have been detected since it was launched; and (b) what safeguards and measures have been taken to ensure that Singpass facial verification cannot be breached by deepfakes or other clones generated by artificial intelligence.

Mrs Josephine Teo (for the Prime Minister): Since the launch of facial verification on Singpass, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) has not detected breaches. Our agencies continuously monitor, test and work on improvements. It is best we maintain operational security over the technical details.

Scam Losses

5 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether financial institutions are required to report to the Monetary Authority of Singapore or any other authorities the amounts lost to scams by their customers; and (b) if so, what have been the amounts lost in 2022 and 2023 with breakdowns by financial institutions.

Mr Lawrence Wong (for the Prime Minister): The total amount lost to scams can be obtained from the bi-annual scam statistics published by the Singapore Police Force, which are derived from police reports filed by victims. There is no regulatory requirement for financial institutions to report the amounts lost by their customers to scams, to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) or other authorities, as MAS has access to the data needed for supervision.

CPIB Investigation

2 August 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister what are the measures currently in place to protect civil servants who choose not to follow (i) inappropriate or (ii) non-official instructions or requests from political office holders.

The Minister for Education (Mr Chan Chun Sing) (for the Prime Minister): Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to answer Oral Question Nos 1 to 18 in the Ministerial Statements to be delivered later at today’s Sitting?

Mr Speaker: I concur.

9 January 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister whether he can provide an update on the CPIB investigation of the Minister for Transport.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): I understand that there is much public interest in this matter. I want to give my assurance that this case will be put through the due legal process.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau has completed a robust and thorough investigation, and the matter is currently being reviewed by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. It would therefore not be appropriate to comment on the matter at this juncture.

Review of Political Office Holders’ Salaries

10 January 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether he has appointed a committee to carry out the five-yearly review of political salaries, given that the last committee was appointed in 2017; (b) if so, what are the terms of reference given to the committee and when can the public expect the report from the committee; and (c) if not, when is this committee expected to be appointed and what are its expected terms of reference.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): The 2012 White Paper on Salaries for a Capable and Committed Government had recommended that an independent committee be appointed every five years to review the salary framework for political appointment holders.

In 2018, the Government provided its response to the latest review of political salaries by an independent committee. The committee had concluded then that the salary framework remained relevant and sound, and its recommendations included adjusting the salary levels of political appointment holders to match the updated benchmark. The Government decided not to make any changes to political salaries, since the economy was still in transition. The Government indicated then that it would review the matter again after five years, or when it becomes necessary.

The next political salaries review is targeted for 2023 and we will share more details in due course.

9 January 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether the targeted review of political appointment holders’ salaries in 2023 was carried out; (b) if so, who are the members of the Committee conducting the review; (c) what are the terms of reference given to the Committee; and (d) when will the Committee’s report be released.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): As Member Mr Alex Yam had earlier filed a similar Parliamentary Question (PQ) for Written Answer, our response to the two PQs are similar.

The recommendations from the last political salaries review were announced in 2018. The salary review Committee recommended a review of the political salaries framework about every five years, or when necessary. The Government did not make any changes to political salaries following the 2018 review as the salary structure remained valid and there were economic uncertainties in the previous few years.

A review of the political salaries was due in 2023. However, the government decided to defer the review as we have other pressing issues to deal with. In 2023, the global geopolitical situation has become more uncertain, with conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, and continuing heightened geopolitical contestation. On the economic front, significant uncertainties and downside risks in the global economy remain, impacting our local economy and our wage and inflation outlooks. Hence, we decided to focus on dealing with these key challenges at hand and defer the review of political salaries for now.

The Government will review the political salaries framework and benchmark in due course to ensure that they remain relevant and up to date.

Size of Constituencies Made by EBRC

9 January 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) has allowed the size of each constituency to deviate by up to 30%, instead of 20% previously, from the mean size of constituencies since 1980 and, if so, why; (b) whether the terms of reference to EBRC should include an instruction to “ensure more equal representation”; and (c) if not, will such an instruction be re-inserted into the terms of reference for subsequent EBRCs.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): Since 1980, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) has adopted a planning norm of ±30% variation in the average number of electors per Member of Parliament in its review of electoral boundaries.

This approach balances the considerations for fair representation, with the need for more adjustments to the electoral boundaries arising from population shifts.

Mental Healthcare Support for Public Officers

6 November 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether expenses incurred by public officers for mental healthcare treatments, such as therapy sessions and medications at public or private medical institutions, are reimbursable under the MediSave-cum-Subsidised Outpatient medical benefits scheme; and (b) whether the Government intends to improve the medical benefits for mental healthcare for public officers and, if not, why not.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): Yes, under our medical benefits schemes, public officers can seek reimbursement for medical treatments for mental health conditions prescribed by doctors registered with the Singapore Medical Council and carried out at hospitals/clinics licensed under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act, subject to the prevailing guidelines.

The Public Service has been and will continue to enhance its efforts to care for and look after the mental health of officers. Public officers can access free counselling through a mental health hotline which provides a safe channel to speak to trained counsellors. A wide range of mental health programmes has been curated to support public officers, such as mindline@work, which is a one-stop repository of self-help resources, and wellness activities that cover topics relating to mental well-being, physical health and nutrition. The Public Service also has a network of over 2,000 mental health ambassadors who are trained to look out for and support officers who may appear stressed or need to talk to someone.

Overseas Postal Ballots

4 October 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether the Elections Department (ELD) notified overseas voters in the 2023 Presidential Election that their votes were received by the Returning Officer and accepted for counting; (b) if not, why not; (c) whether those whose votes were not accepted for counting will be considered as non-voters and struck off the electoral roll; and (d) whether ELD will consider alternative methods of returning postal ballots in future, given that only 60% of ballots received in this election were accepted for counting.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): The Elections Department (ELD) will notify overseas postal voters via email that their return envelopes have been received by the Returning Officer (RO). Voters may also check the status of their return envelope via ELD’s Voter Services. ELD does not currently inform voters if their postal ballot papers have been accepted for counting and will study if this can be implemented in future elections.

An overseas voter who has successfully registered as a postal voter and has downloaded his or her postal ballot paper will not be considered as a non-voter. This remains the case even if the RO does not subsequently receive the return envelope.

ELD’s preliminary analysis showed that the majority of postal ballot papers which reached the RO in time but could not be accepted for counting for Presidential Election 2023 was because the return envelopes had postmarks which were late, that is, later than 31 August 2023, or had faint, illegible or missing postmarks.

While ELD will review whether other improvements to the postal voting process could be made, it remained important for overseas postal voters to mail their return envelopes early and to affix stamps if they are residing in certain regions/countries, so that the return envelopes have the best chance of reaching Singapore by the deadline to be accepted for counting.

Overseas and Nursing Home Voting

4 October 2023

3 Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) what are the lessons learnt in the implementation of overseas voting and nursing home voting procedures in the 2023 Presidential Election; and (b) whether any changes will be made.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): The Elections Department (ELD) is currently reviewing the two new initiatives, namely, overseas postal voting and special voting arrangements for nursing homes, introduced at Presidential Election 2023.

For postal voting, the initial findings are similar to what ELD had observed in its trial before the election, which are that postal services in some countries may not postmark the business reply return envelopes and that the return envelopes should be mailed early. ELD had thus earlier emailed registered postal voters to advise them to affix postage stamps on their return envelopes, especially if they reside in certain regions/countries, and to mail their return envelopes early to ensure that they reach the Returning Officer within 10 days after Polling Day.

On the pilot special voting arrangements at nursing homes, the initiative has enabled voters with mobility challenges to cast their votes without leaving the nursing home and, when necessary, to vote from their beds. However, election officials did face challenges, including managing voters who may lack the mental capacity to vote.

ELD will consider the various findings and feedback and announce the next steps ahead of the next election.

Civil Servants Suspended on Reduced Pay

3 October 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister what is the upper limit and lower limit of salaries for civil servants who are suspended on reduced pay.

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) since 2000, how many civil servants have been suspended on (i) full pay, (ii) less than full pay but more than half pay, (iii) half pay, (iv) less than half pay but excluding those on no pay and (v) no pay; and (b) what is the basis of suspending on no pay.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): Under the Public Service (Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations, interdiction is not meant to be a disciplinary penalty in and of itself. In the Civil Service, when officers have to be interdicted from duty while undergoing investigations, they are put on half-pay, subject to a floor of $1,200 and a ceiling of $8,500 per month.

Officers can be interdicted on no-pay from the point wrongdoing has been established by the relevant authorities, up to the conclusion of internal Civil Service disciplinary proceedings which may result in dismissal of the officers. Officers who have previously been interdicted on half-pay during investigations may also subsequently be put on no-pay interdiction after wrongdoing has been established by the relevant authorities. For instance, for cases involving Police and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau investigations, officers interdicted on half-pay initially will be interdicted on no-pay if the Court convicts them of the charges.

Based on available interdiction records, about 300 civil servants were interdicted from duty over the last 10 years since 2013. Of which, 10% were interdicted directly on no-pay as wrongdoing had been established at the point of interdiction. Around 30% were interdicted on half-pay initially and subsequently interdicted on no-pay. The remaining 60% have only half-pay interdiction records for various reasons, such as ongoing internal investigations, pending Court cases, no wrongdoing established, and resignation.

Voters Expunged from and Added to Registers of Electors

3 August 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister in the revision of the Registers of Electors (a) how many voters’ names have been expunged in each constituency since the 2020 General Election because of (i) death, (ii) non-voting, (iii) loss of citizenship, (iv) serving a sentence of imprisonment and (v) other reasons respectively; and (b) how many voters’ names have been added in each constituency after (i) attaining age 21, (ii) registering as a Singapore Citizen, (iii) completing a sentence of imprisonment and (iv) other reasons respectively.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): The Registers of Electors (REs) were certified on 20 July 2023. There are a total of 2,709,455 electors in the registers, which is 58,020 more than the 2,651,435 electors at General Election 2020 (GE2020). The net change by Electoral Division is provided in Table A. This information on the number of electors at each election and after each revision of the REs is available on the Elections Department website ( We do not track the changes in the number of electors based on the profiles requested by the Member.

Implications of Strong Singapore Dollar

2 August 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister what were the benefits of a strong Singapore dollar policy that recorded S$30.8 billion in losses last year by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The Minister of State for Trade and Industry (Mr Alvin Tan) (for the Prime Minister): Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to take Question Nos 23, 24 and 25 in today’s Order Paper together, please?

Mr Speaker: Please proceed.

Mr Alvin Tan: Mr Speaker, my response will cover the questions raised by Ms Hazel Poa, Assoc Prof Jamus Lim and Mr Don Wee in today’s Order Paper, as well as Mr Yip Hon Weng’s question filed for tomorrow’s Sitting. If Mr Yip is satisfied with the response, he may wish to withdraw his question after this session.

Assoc Prof Jamus Lim asked about the components of the net loss, including from the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) currency intervention. MAS had explained in detail the constituents of its reported financial loss at its annual press conference in July, which I will reiterate here.

About 70% of the net loss was due to the negative currency translation effects of a stronger Singapore dollar. This is not due to currency intervention. The negative currency translation effects arise because the Official Foreign Reserves (OFR) are held in foreign currencies but reported in Singapore dollars. Therefore, a stronger Singapore dollar will result in a lower value for the OFR when expressed in Singapore dollar terms. This currency translation effect does not have any bearing on the external purchasing power of the OFR or on MAS’ ability to conduct monetary policy.

The remaining 30% of the net loss was due to net interest expenses from MAS’ money market operations to mop up excess liquidity in the banking system. The net interest expense incurred on MAS’ money market operations to mop up this excess liquidity in the banking system was unusually large in the last FY due to two factors: one, the large volume of operations; and two, higher interest rates.

The high volume of money market operations was necessitated by MAS’ interventions in the foreign exchange market to moderate the appreciation of the Singapore dollar. As MAS explained earlier, had it not done this, the Singapore dollar would have been too strong and therefore hurt the economy. While this currency intervention added substantially to our OFR, it created excess Singapore dollar liquidity in our domestic banking system which MAS had to remove and, therefore, incur an interest expense in the process.

Mr Don Wee asked if MAS plans to increase the interest yields and payments of Treasury Bills and bonds to curb losses and encourage a higher level of savings. Such instruments are issued by the Government and not by MAS. The interest rates payable on such instruments are not determined by MAS but are market-determined via auctions. As the interest rates of such instruments have increased in tandem with the rise in global interest rates, we have already seen a healthy pick-up in demand by the public.

Mr Yip Hon Weng asked whether there are plans to broaden the basket of currencies in which the OFR is held. The OFR is already held in a diverse range of currencies. As long as the Singapore dollar appreciates against these currencies, there will be negative currency translation effects. In the last FY, the Singapore dollar appreciated against every major currency. As MAS explained earlier, the effects of a stronger Singapore dollar cannot be hedged or diversified away.

Let me now respond to the Members’ broader questions on monetary policy.

Ms Hazel Poa asked about the benefits of a stronger Singapore dollar in view of the financial losses recorded by MAS. The appreciation of the Singapore dollar last year reflected the outcome of MAS’ tighter monetary policy to dampen inflation. This policy has been successful in curbing imported inflationary pressures. Let me explain how. Between May 2022 and June 2023, Singapore’s import price index had fallen by some 14%. This decline in import prices has, in turn, contributed to lower domestic inflation. On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted annualised basis, MAS’ Core Inflation fell from its peak of 9.1% in June 2022 to 2.2% in June 2023.

Mr Yip Hon Weng asked how MAS strikes a balance between managing inflation and incurring losses and whether these losses are anticipated. MAS’ monetary policy is focused purely on keeping inflation low and ensuring medium-term price stability. It does not take into account any potential impact on MAS’ profits because to do so would undermine its mission. This is similar to how other major central banks conduct monetary policy. Many of them have also reported losses arising from their monetary policy operations. MAS’ financial performance is a necessary consequence of its conduct of monetary policy.

The OFR is key in enabling MAS to conduct effective monetary policy. As a central bank, MAS adopts a conservative approach in its investments, with a significant proportion of its portfolio invested in liquid financial market instruments. Through a well-diversified portfolio and careful risk management, MAS expects to earn good long-term returns that are commensurate with its risk profile.

Finally, let me turn to Mr Yip’s question about the impact of MAS’ net loss on the Government’s budget position. MAS contributes to the Government’s budget in two ways.

First, under the Net Investment Returns (NIR) framework, the Government can spend up to 50% of the expected long-term real return on the assets invested by MAS, GIC and Temasek. NIR is based on the long-term expected returns of these entities and, hence, is not affected by their short-term performance. Accordingly, MAS’ reported net loss in the last FY has no impact on the NIR that is available to the Government.

Second, similar to other Statutory Boards, MAS makes contributions to the Government’s Consolidated Fund in lieu of corporate income tax. This is based on 17% of the net profit for the year, after offsetting cumulative losses from previous financial years. The Government recognises that MAS contributions will vary considerably from year to year and has therefore smoothened the revenue volatility by requiring the annual contributions made by MAS to be paid in equal proportions over a period of three years.

Given the net loss in FY2022/2023, MAS will not accrue a contribution to the Government’s Consolidated Fund for that financial year. Nonetheless, MAS will still make a contribution of S$0.4 billion to the Government’s Consolidated Fund in the current financial year, based on past profits. This smoothening formula has thus helped to mitigate the impact of MAS’ net loss on the Government’s budget.

In sum, MAS’ overarching mandate is to ensure macroeconomic stability. As Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong stated in this House on 1 August 2022, the Government does not expect MAS to deviate from its mandate to maximise its contributions to the Budget. MAS’ monetary policy has helped to deliver broad macroeconomic stability for over 40 years as the basis for sustained economic growth and increases in real incomes for Singaporeans.

Ms Hazel Poa (Non-Constituency Member): I thank the Minister of State for his answer. I have a supplementary question. The Minister of State has said that the benefit of the strong dollar policy is to dampen inflation. Given that domestic consumption is $192 billion and this recorded loss of $30.8 billion is a big sum of money, equivalent to about 16% of domestic consumption, how much has it dampened inflation and compared to the $30.8 billion, what is the official cost-benefit analysis and the assessment on the efficacy of this policy?

Mr Alvin Tan: Sir, I thank the Member for her supplementary question. As I mentioned earlier in my reply, the loss is attributed to 70% in net currency translation losses and a 30% in interventions and money market operations. These are the normal functionings of how central banks conduct monetary policy and with its goal to dampen inflation and to have medium-term price stability – so that is to put that into context.

On its impact on price stability and its impact on inflation, I had mentioned that in my Parliamentary Question reply. But let me also explain that if MAS had not tightened monetary policy, quarterly core inflation would have reached 7.2% year-on-year at its peak – 1.9 percentage points higher than the actual peak of 5.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023. So, inflation would have stayed higher for much longer and brought about much more significant increases in the cost of living for households.

Therefore, MAS’ conduct of monetary policy has made an impact. We are still seeing the impact over the course of the different quarters, having tightened monetary policy five times since October 2021.

Permission for Persons on Bail to Leave Singapore

2 August 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) under what circumstances are persons on bail allowed to leave Singapore; (b) since 2022, how many persons on bail have been granted permission to leave Singapore; (c) beyond a high bail amount, what steps are taken to reduce the flight risks of such persons; and (d) whether a person’s income and net worth are considered when bail amounts are set.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): The purpose of bail is to secure the attendance of the person arrested or charged. The quantum of bail varies according to the specific circumstances of each case. Bail conditions, such as a requirement for the person to surrender his passport, may also be imposed.

When setting the quantum of bail and the conditions to be imposed, the law enforcement agency and the Courts consider a variety of factors to assess the flight risk of the accused. These include: (a) the gravity of the alleged offence; (b) the extent of the person’s roots in Singapore; and (c) whether the person has attempted to abscond previously.

A person’s background, employment history and financial position are relevant considerations for assessing his flight risk. For example, the fact that a person is employed in Singapore and has assets here is evidence of his roots in Singapore. This would weigh in favour of a lower flight risk. However, the person’s background, employment history and financial position are just some of the many factors considered in determining flight risk.

Persons on bail may be allowed to leave Singapore if they are granted permission to do so by the law enforcement agency – for agency bail; or the Court – for Court bail.

The main consideration is whether the person will return to Singapore, if granted permission to leave. Apart from the general factors considered in assessing flight risk, the factors considered in deciding whether permission should be granted include: (a) the reason for travel; (b) the intended destination; and (c) the duration and expected date of departure and return to Singapore.

If permission is granted, the bail quantum may be increased and additional bail conditions may also be imposed to prevent absconding. These bail conditions may include a requirement that: (a) the person furnishes a complete itinerary of his travel, including where he would be staying and his contact number while overseas, before departing Singapore; and (b) the person remains contactable by the Investigation Officer when he is overseas.

The number of persons on bail who are granted permission to leave Singapore is not specifically tracked. It is not uncommon for persons on bail to apply for permission to leave Singapore and for permission to be granted if the law enforcement agency or the Court is satisfied that the person will return to Singapore.

Leasing of Ridout Road Properties by Ministers

3 July 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister whether any other political officeholders or Members of Parliament are currently renting or occupying state property for residential purposes.

Mr Teo Chee Hean (for the Prime Minister): The Second Minister for Law and I have addressed this Question in our Ministerial Statements at the 3 July 2023 Parliament Sitting.

3 July 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Law (a) why are rental rates for state properties not publicly available beyond six months of the tender; (b) what are the rental rates in respect of the two state properties at Ridout Road that are currently rented out to two Ministers; and (c) how do these rental rates compare with the rent paid by other tenants of comparable black-and-white bungalows.

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Law with regard to the 26 and 31 Ridout Road properties that are currently rented out to two Ministers (a) how do the terms of the lease agreement of these properties compare to the terms of lease agreements of other black and white bungalows managed by SLA; (b) whether there are any non-standard clauses in the lease agreements of these two properties; and (c) whether the lease agreements of these two properties will be made public.

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Law (a) what are the reasons why the rental bid of 26 Ridout Road is made by an agent; (b) whether SLA knew that the Minister for Law was the principal behind the bid; and (c) if so, how and when did the SLA come to know of this.

The Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security (Mr Teo Chee Hean) (for the Prime Minister): Mr Deputy Speaker, as Minister Edwin Tong and I have given notice and will be making Statements later at today’s Sitting, may I have your permission to answer Oral Question Nos 1 to 23 in our Ministerial Statements later today?

Mr Deputy Speaker: Yes, please.

4 July 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister whether the Ministers’ tenancies of 26 and 31 Ridout Road have breached the Code of Conduct for political officeholders.

Mr Teo Chee Hean (for the Prime Minister): I have addressed this Question in my Ministerial Statement at the 3 July 2023 Parliament Sitting. [Please refer to “Review of the Rentals of State Properties at 26 and 31 Ridout Road”, Official Report, 3 July 2023, Vol 95, Issue 105, Ministerial Statements section.]

4 July 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) what are the current rules, conventions, policies and processes for Cabinet Ministers to declare conflicts of interest and recuse themselves from official matters on which they may have an actual or perceived conflict of interest; and (b) whether there are any plans to strengthen such rules, conventions, policies and processes.

Mr Teo Chee Hean (for the Prime Minister): I have addressed this Question in my Ministerial Statement at the 3 July 2023 Parliament Sitting. [Please refer to “Review of the Rentals of State Properties at 26 and 31 Ridout Road”, Official Report, 3 July 2023, Vol 95, Issue 105, Ministerial Statements section.]

Keppel Offshore & Marine Corruption Probe

6 February 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister what information or evidence can be given to reassure the public that the decision not to prosecute the six former staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited involved in the S$73 million bribe payments case has nothing to do with their connections and that this is not an example of cronyism.

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister whether other agencies apart from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and Attorney-General’s Chambers, have been consulted on the issue of the appropriate action to be taken on former staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited who are involved in bribe payments and, if so, what are those views.

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether zero tolerance on corruption remains to be the Government’s position; and (b) if so, whether the decision to issue stern warnings to the six individuals who were formerly senior management staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited involved in the bribery case undermines that position and signals a lack of political will to stamp out corruption.

The Minister, Prime Minister’s Office (Ms Indranee Rajah) (for the Prime Minister): Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to take Question Nos 23 to 39 in the Order Paper together?

Mr Speaker: Yes, please.

Ms Indranee Rajah: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My response to these Parliamentary Questions would also effectively address the Parliamentary Questions (PQs) by Members Ms Hazel Poa and Ms He Ting Ru for written answer today; and the PQs by Members Mr Dennis Tan, Mr Gerald Giam, Dr Wan Rizal¹ and Ms Poa² scheduled for subsequent Sittings. The Members may wish to raise any supplementary questions arising therefrom and withdraw the PQs for later Sittings which are answered today.

Mr Speaker, the questions arise from the Public Prosecutor (PP)’s, decision to issue stern warnings to six former senior management staff from Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited (KOM), some of whom used to work at KOM’s wholly-owned US subsidiary at relevant times.

The questions raised by Members fall into the following broad categories:

(a) why were the six individuals issued with stern warnings instead of being prosecuted;

(b) whether, and if so why, the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) and the accompanying Statement of Facts (SOF) are insufficient to mount a prosecution;

(c) details of the investigations or decision to issue stern warnings;

(d) why the six individuals in question were not named and whether they should be;

(e) statistics on stern warnings and prosecutions;

(f) whether the decision to issue stern warnings, instead of prosecuting, will affect our zero tolerance stance on corruption and reputation;

(g) corruption in foreign jurisdictions; and

(h) sufficiency of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).

Before I answer these questions, let me deal with a preliminary point. There has been a fair bit of speculation on why the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) did not issue a fuller statement or why the Government is dealing with the matter in Parliament, which is based on a lack of understanding of how these matters are usually dealt with.

First, CPIB had explained the reasons for its decision in its press release. With your leave, Mr Speaker, may I ask the Clerks to distribute copies of the press release to Members?

Mr Speaker: Please do. [Handouts were distributed to hon Members.]

Ms Indranee Rajah: Members may also access the handout through the SGParl MP mobile app. You would see, at paragraph 5, that CPIB explained: “This case is complex and transnational, involving multiple authorities and witnesses from several countries. There are evidentiary difficulties in cases of such nature. Many of the documents are located in different jurisdictions. In addition, key witnesses are located outside of Singapore and cannot be compelled to give evidence here. The decision whether to prosecute the six individuals for criminal offences has to take into consideration all relevant factors, such as the culpability of each individual, the available evidence and what is appropriate in the circumstances. Having taken these into consideration, stern warnings were issued to the six individuals.”

Police and other law enforcement agencies investigate a vast number of cases. When they do not proceed, the standard practice is not to issue any statement.

Where there is public interest in knowing more details, Members may file questions in this House. And the relevant Minister will, after consulting the PP who made the decision independently, answer the questions to the extent permitted in law. That is what is happening here, in this case.

I think Members will agree, in general, when the law enforcement agencies do not proceed to charge someone after completing investigations, it is not expected that the agencies go into details of the decision. But if anyone has questions on the decision, the matter can be raised in Parliament and that is what we are doing now.

Let me deal with questions that I have identified.

First, the reasons for issuing the stern warning rather than prosecution and the sufficiency of DPA and SOF. Decisions on charging are made by the PP. In deciding whether to charge, the PP has to consider whether he has the necessary evidence to prove that those individuals were involved in certain conduct and possessed a certain mental state, to establish the offences. In this case, as CPIB explained in its media release, there are evidentiary difficulties in doing so.

Simply put – there is a lack of sufficient evidence either documentary or through witnesses, which would establish any criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt against a specific individual.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has made a number of mutual legal assistance requests over five years. To date, the findings from these requests are insufficient for prosecution, as I will elaborate later.

Given this reality, I would like to know if any Member thinks that, nevertheless, even without sufficient evidence, the PP should have proceeded to bring charges against individuals who deny the allegations against them. If so, please let me know and the basis on which you say so.

Does the fact that KOM had entered into DPA make a difference in this matter? And would the DPA be enough to, at least, commence prosecution against the specific individuals in question? The answer is no.

The DPA and related documents were entered into between KOM, the US Department of Justice and the US Attorney’s Office. KOM USA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of KOM, also entered into a plea bargain agreement with the US authorities. No individuals were parties to these documents. While the documents make reference to the actions of certain individuals, I have been advised that those references, on their own, are insufficient to establish any offences beyond reasonable doubt, without witnesses testifying in Singapore about the context surrounding those actions and the intention behind them.

In short, the agencies do not have sufficient evidence that would show, beyond reasonable doubt that any of the six individuals were guilty of an offence.

CPIB conducted an in-depth investigation within Singapore, within the scope of its legal powers. However, as I said earlier, the difficulty with this case is that several potentially key witnesses are not in Singapore and CPIB has not been able to secure their cooperation or agreement to testify in Singapore.

With the initial assistance of the Brazilian authorities, CPIB made two fact-finding trips to Brazil in May and August 2019.

AGC and CPIB sent three mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests to Brazil to secure the evidence that was needed. AGC and CPIB also sent an MLA request to another relevant foreign authority to interview other potential material witnesses. The contents and outcome of these MLA requests are confidential, but I can inform the House that they have either not yielded evidence that could be used to secure a conviction before our Courts, or the responses have not been helpful in advancing the case.

There is one foreign witness who gave evidence in other proceedings, which could have been relevant in establishing the offences in Singapore. However, that foreign witness is not willing to voluntarily give evidence in Singapore. Neither AGC nor CPIB can compel him to do so.

Some Members may ask whether any prosecution could be advanced arising out of the fact that a particular individual had entered into a plea bargain in another jurisdiction, in relation to his involvement in the KOM bribery. When this individual was investigated by CPIB on his return to Singapore, he denied knowing that commissions paid to the agent in Brazil were paid out as bribes. He did not, during CPIB’s investigations, implicate himself or any others in conspiring to pay bribes. Even if the PP applies to a Singapore Court to admit the plea agreement, the agreement did not identify any specific individuals and was made in the context of a plea bargain and will be given limited weight without further supporting evidence and in the face of potentially conflicting oral testimony.

CPIB has conducted as thorough an investigation as it could with the information and powers that it possessed. However, given the cross-border nature of this case and absence of key witnesses, CPIB’s investigations could not overcome the evidential difficulties for the purposes of prosecution in a Singapore Court. As such, stern warnings were issued. If, subsequently, new and compelling facts come to light, it remains open for the PP to re-evaluate the decision in the light of the evolving legal and factual matrix.

Ms Hazel Poa asked whether the decision to issue a stern warning was unanimous in AGC and CPIB, and if other agencies were consulted. Mr Louis Chua asked what offences were being considered.

The decision not to charge is made by the PP in the exercise of his discretion and professional judgement, taking into account all relevant considerations. The PP does not tell us whether everyone in AGC agreed with him or if there were differing views, or which agencies he worked with apart from CPIB. Nor is it our task to ask AGC to list all the agencies which were involved. In the end, what matters is the considered view of AGC, working with CPIB.

In response to Mr Chua, I am advised that relevant potential offences were considered by the PP.

Next, on the naming of individuals, Mr Dennis Tan and Mr Gerald Giam asked about the identities or details of the six individuals. Mr Murali Pillai and Ms Sylvia Lim asked whether other entities or persons were involved.

As a matter of policy, CPIB does not disclose the names of individuals unless they are charged in court. This policy is not unique to the CPIB; law enforcement agencies in the US, UK and New Zealand have a similar approach. The principle underlying this policy is to avoid prejudicing that individual’s right to due process and also avoid any presumption of guilt in the absence of any formal findings.

If Members feel that hereafter, this practice should be changed and that law enforcement agencies should name all individuals who were investigated, even if in the end no charges are brought, then please say so. That would be a major change of policy. But please note, if Members want to change, then it cannot be only for this case. It must be for all future cases. That is something to think carefully about. Members will recall that about two years ago, a question was in fact raised in this House, asking about the protections available for those whose reputations are affected by media coverage of ongoing trials of certain offences and how such reports are regulated.

Dr Tan Wu Meng sought statistics on prosecutions and stern warnings, and Ms Poa asked if warnings were issued in other corruption cases. From 2017 to 2021, CPIB has issued an average of 138 warnings annually and 139 individuals were prosecuted. Stern warnings are not unusual, being used in cases where there are evidential difficulties or little public interest to prosecute.

Questions have been asked on the impact of Singapore’s zero tolerance policy on corruption and reputation. There is no change in Singapore’s zero tolerance policy on corruption. I have explained the reasons why no criminal proceedings have been brought in this matter. In having regard to the rules of evidence, CPIB and AGC are observing the basic rules for a fair and just criminal justice system. What can be inferred from this is that while Singapore has zero tolerance on corruption, it also strongly adheres to the rule of law.

Mr Murali Pillai asked in what circumstances CPIB will investigate foreign bribery cases involving Singapore Citizens or companies under section 37 of the PCA. CPIB will investigate all cases whether they happened locally or overseas, as long as the alleged offences fall under the ambit of the PCA and the information is credible and can be pursued. CPIB will investigate and submit its findings and recommendations to the PP, who will then decide if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.

On Ms He Ting Ru and Ms Hazel Poa’s questions regarding Singapore companies being convicted of corruption abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) does not have such records and CPIB’s records do not go as far back as 1965. More recently, in 2015, a Singapore company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Pte Ltd (GDMA), pleaded guilty in the USA to bribery-related offences. GDMA was not prosecuted in Singapore as key evidence against the company was not available here and GDMA had been dealt with in the USA. However, Gursharan Kaur Sharon Rachael, the Singaporean employee of the US Navy, was prosecuted here as evidence of her corrupt conduct was available to CPIB and she pleaded guilty to those offences.

Mr Zhulkarnain asked if we will amend the PCA to expand the powers of the CPIB to facilitate investigations outside jurisdiction. CPIB’s powers under the PCA allow it to investigate offences committed by Singaporeans abroad but the investigations have to be conducted in Singapore. CPIB cannot conduct investigations abroad. And regardless of what our law says, it is not possible for our agencies to exercise police powers in another country. That would not be allowed or tolerated by any other country, just like we would never allow a foreign investigative agency to exercise police powers in Singapore.

Think of it this way – do you think Singaporeans will or should accept that a regional police force can come into Singapore and interrogate Singaporeans?

Hence, when evidence resides outside Singapore, our agencies are dependent on international cooperation and foreign authorities to facilitate their investigations and secure the relevant evidence. This Parliament cannot legislate to empower CPIB to conduct investigations in foreign jurisdictions because that would run afoul of territorial sovereignty.

Therefore, Members need to be realistic about what we can and cannot do. Singapore companies who operate overseas do so in myriad environments, where all kinds of business practices prevail. We cannot police all of them. However, what we can and should do is to insulate our companies and our system against corruption. Our companies must find a way to do business cleanly, wherever they do business and people must know that is how we operate.

In conclusion, the PP decided not to prosecute the six individuals because the evidence available in Singapore does not provide sufficient evidential basis to prosecute, bearing in mind the Prosecution’s burden is to establish the ingredients of each offence beyond reasonable doubt. The CPIB has done its best, including working with international partners to uncover such evidence.

CPIB and AGC have undertaken a careful and thorough review of the documents, including the DPAs and plea bargains and the PP has advised that those are insufficient to meet the burden of proof. But if subsequently new and compelling evidence comes up, the PP can and will re-evaluate the decision. The PP’s decision to issue stern warnings should be understood in that context.

Mr Speaker, Singapore’s success arises in no small part because of its policy in upholding the rule of law and adopting a zero tolerance policy to corruption. Both are necessary factors and our zero tolerance policy must be upheld in a manner that complies with the rule of law. The PP has acknowledged this and this is exactly what the PP has done on the facts – to uphold the rule of law.

6 February 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister whether the decision by CPIB to issue stern warnings to the former staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited involved in bribe payments instead of prosecuting them was a unanimous one and whether there were dissenting views within CPIB; and (b) if so, what are those views.

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister whether examples of other similar cases of corruption where only warnings were issued can be provided for comparison.

Ms Indranee Rajah (for the Prime Minister): These questions have been addressed in the reply to Question Nos 23 to 39 for Oral Answer on the Order Paper for 6 February 2023. [Please refer to “Findings from Keppel Offshore & Marine Corruption Probe”, Official Report, 6 February 2023, Vol 95, Issue 81, Oral Answers to Questions section.]

7 February 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister since 1965 (a) how many cases are there of Singapore companies being convicted of corruption overseas; and (b) how many of these cases are also prosecuted in Singapore.

Ms Indranee Rajah (for the Prime Minister): This question has been addressed in my reply to Question Nos 23 to 39 for oral answer on the Order Paper for 6 February 2023. [Please refer to “Findings from Keppel Offshore & Marine Corruption Probe”, Official Report, 6 February 2023, Vol 95, Issue 81, Oral Answers to Questions section.]

Remuneration of Judges

10 January 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) what are the fixed and variable non-pensionable pay components, allowances, and benefits accorded to Supreme Court Judges under the Judges’ Remuneration Act 1994; (b) what are the rates at which the retirement and death gratuities are accrued for these judges; and (c) whether the remuneration of judges is benchmarked against that of political office holders.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): The annual salary package of Supreme Court Judge consists of six components: gross monthly salary, Annual Variable Component, Non-Pensionable Annual Allowance, Performance Bonus, National Bonus and Judiciary Allowance. The gross monthly salary comprises both fixed and variable components. Except for the Judiciary Allowance and the fixed monthly salary components, the other components may vary depending on economic conditions and individual performance. This structure is the same as civil servants of the equivalent substantive grade.

The types of leave and medical benefits, including the retirement and death gratuity rates, are the same as civil servants of the equivalent substantive grade.

The remuneration of judges has its own separate benchmark and is not linked to that of political office holders.

Compensation for National Service Death and Disability

9 January 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) over the last 20 years, how many full-time and reservist National Servicemen in the SAF, SPF and SCDF respectively have (i) passed away while in service or (ii) suffered permanent disability from a service injury; and (b) what is the amount of compensation paid to the servicemen in these cases respectively.

Dr Ng Eng Hen (for the Prime Minister): Every year, approximately 300,000 male Singaporeans and Permanant Residents (PRs) perform their National Service (NS) duties in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). They train, serve and respond as frontline troops in defending our nation, preserving law and order and dealing with civil emergencies.

Over the last 20 years, a total of 42 national servicemen passed away due to service – 35 in the SAF, four in the SPF and three in the SCDF. Of these, a total of six deaths – two SAF, three SPF and one SCDF – were due to traffic accidents on the way to or from work or while on official duties, which are covered under the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF)’s and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)’s compensation framework.

The corresponding figure over the same period for permanent disability to the brain, spinal cord, eyes or limbs due to serious service-related injuries totalled 52 cases – 43 in the SAF, four in the SPF and five in the SCDF. Of these, a total of 11 cases – eight SAF, one SPF and two SCDF – were due to traffic accidents.

The proportions of deaths and permanent disability due to service within the SAF, SPF and SCDF are, therefore, 0.001%, 0.001% and 0.002% respectively.

While both the rates of death and permanent disability due to service are low with reference to international or local benchmarks of comparable activity, the SAF and Home Team constantly strive to achieve a zero-fatality rate. Every incident is investigated at the highest levels of command, with corrective measures taken to improve the safety under which our national servicemen to train and operate.

Every national serviceman is covered by injury and life insurance, bought on their behalf by MINDEF and MHA. Since 1 January 2023, the coverage under both policies has been doubled from a maximum of $150,000 to $300,000, providing a higher baseline pay out. In addition to this basic tier, further compensation is provided depending on the degree of disability and circumstances of injury or death.

Total compensation for service-related injuries and deaths takes reference from industrial benchmarks such as the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA), but is set several times higher to reflect the mandatory nature of NS. The amounts vary considerably due to individualised circumstances and is reflected by the wide range of payouts, from several thousand dollars to more than $1.5 million, for deaths or permanent disability due to operations or training. For the same injury and comparable circumstances, the total compensation provided to national servicemen, is about four times of the amounts paid under the WICA.

Servicemen who sustain service-related injuries are also provided with free medical treatment for their injury for as long as is medically necessary, at SAF/SPF/SCDF medical facilities and public healthcare institutions.

Civil Servants Holding Concurrent Appointments with Foreign Governments

20 October 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) whether civil servants are allowed to hold concurrent appointments with foreign governments; (b) if so, under what circumstances will they be allowed to do so; (c) how many are currently holding such concurrent appointments and with which foreign governments; and (d) what measures are in place to prevent these civil servants from being targets of influence operations.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): Civil servants are, generally, not allowed to take up concurrent employment with foreign governments. This is aligned to our policy on outside employment, where civil servants should not seek employment outside of the Public Service to avoid conflict of interest with their official duties.

Some civil servants are invited to serve on advisory panels or provide consultancy or training services in other countries, under cooperation agreements, in view of their professional work and expertise. These arrangements are similar to how foreigners or foreign officials are invited to sit and serve on our advisory boards and councils.

Officers have to seek prior permission from their Permanent Secretaries to ensure there is no conflict of interest before they embark on these activities. In addition, to mitigate the risk of foreign influence, there are measures in place where officers cannot receive gifts from foreign governments nor use any official resources or information in these external activities without the approval of their Permanent Secretaries. We do not have data on the number of such cases.

Enhancing Security of Digital Banking Following Recent Scams

14 February 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister (a) what are the lapses that resulted in OCBC customers falling prey to the recent phishing scams; and (b) what measures will the Government take to prevent this from happening again.

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister whether he will review the apportionment of liability between banks and their customers in cases of scams.

The Minister for Finance (Mr Lawrence Wong): Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to answer Oral Question Nos 7 to 32 as part of the three Ministerial Statements to be delivered by the Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity Mrs Josephine Teo, the Minister of State for Home Affairs Mr Desmond Tan and myself, at tomorrow’s Sitting.

Mr Speaker: Yes, you may.

Citizenship Breakdown In Civil Service

2 November 2020

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister what is the current number of employees in the Civil Service and statutory boards who are (i) Singapore citizens (ii) permanent residents and (iii) foreigners.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): As at 31 December 2019, there were 138,126 Singapore citizens, 5,306 permanent residents and 3,160 foreigners employed in the Civil Service and statutory boards.