Corruption in Singapore remains low; construction & building maintenance of concern
It took a battle of wits and interviews lasting seven to eight hours for the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officers to get the suspects to crack.
The directors of two construction companies had paid $300,000 in bribes to a hotel's building enhancement director as reward for furthering their business interests, but the trio were initially uncooperative despite mounting evidence from CPIB's intelligence work and computer forensics.
When pressed, they made the excuse that the money came from horse betting winnings.
Officers saw through the lie and the three were charged and convicted of corruption.
Releasing its annual statistics yesterday, CPIB said corruption here remains firmly under control but the construction and building maintenance sectors are areas of concern in the private sector, which makes up the bulk of the corruption cases it handles.
Last year, 112 people were prosecuted for offences investigated by the CPIB, and 107 were from the private sector.
Of these private sector offenders, 18 were prosecuted for corruption in relation to construction activities, and 17 were prosecuted for corruption in relation to building maintenance work, such as water leakage repair and air-conditioning maintenance.
The construction industry case that CPIB cited was concluded last year. Tan Ken Huat, managing director of Shanghai Chong Kee Furniture and Construction, was sentenced to nine months' jail last August, while Teo Wee Liap, director of Superiortec, a subcontractor for Tan's company, was jailed for six months last June.
The hotel director, Soh Yew Meng, was earlier sentenced to 14 months' jail in 2017.
The construction sector has been noted as an area of concern by CPIB in four of the past five years.
Mr Wilson Ang, a partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright handling anti-corruption matters, said the building and construction sectors are vulnerable because many parties are involved and there are many interactions between contractors putting in tenders and the people deciding on them.
Mr Ang told The New Paper: "Those people would be very much exposed or at risk of being offered a bribe."
He added: "A lot of these transactions tend to be of quite high value so there is great temptation to try to take shortcuts."
Mr Ang said one way to minimise the risk of corruption is automating and centralising decision-making, and reducing the interpersonal influence that can be exerted, but it is still very much person-to-person in the private sector.
"(People try) to curry favour, build relationships, and sometimes that crosses the line into corruption," Mr Ang said.
"Companies at the very minimum ought to have policies and procedures in place to ensure people understand that corruption and conflict of interest should be avoided."
CPIB said yesterday that there will always be individuals and parties who are tempted to engage in corrupt acts.
Urging the public to report suspected acts of corruption and for private companies to combat corruption in their business transactions, it added: "The strongest deterrent is a public that continues to eschew corrupt acts and individuals."
By the numbers
After a record low in 2017, the number of new corruption cases investigated by the CPIB went up slightly last year. Here are the bureau's annual statistics, released yesterday, at a glance:
107 Number of new cases registered for investigation last year, up from 103 in 2017.
358 Number of corruption-related complaints received last year. The lowest in five years.
88 Percentage of new cases investigated by CPIB in the private sector. And 15 per cent of these involved public sector employees rejecting bribes from private sector individuals.
112 People charged in Court with offences investigated by CPIB. Five were from the public sector. Excluding prosecutorial decisions to withdraw charges, 99 per cent of the cases last year ended in convictions.
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