Review to be carried out on Ridout Road properties: PM Lee
A review will be carried out on the Ridout Road properties by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean. This must be done to ensure that the Government maintains the highest standards of integrity, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan have also spoken to Mr Lee to request for a review that is independent of the ministries and agencies they supervise, he added.
“Last week, I asked for reports from the relevant agencies setting out the facts,” said Mr Lee. “I have also asked Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean to review the matter, and establish whether proper processes have been followed, and if there has been any wrongdoing.
“I have asked SM Teo to carry out the review expeditiously and to make the findings public in time for the Parliamentary sitting.”
Earlier in a statement issued on May 12, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) had confirmed that the properties at No 26 Ridout Road and No 31 Ridout Road — both colonial bungalows — were tenanted to Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan respectively.
It added that both properties had been vacant for several years, and the rentals were “performed in full compliance with the relevant SLA procedures”.
The statutory board had issued the statement in response to media queries on social media posts about both properties, that were published by opposition politician and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam.
Mr Jeyaretnam had written on May 6 that it was difficult to see how the ministers “could afford to pay the market rent for such a pricey property”.
In its statement, SLA gave details of how the properties came to be rented by the ministers. It did not say how many bids were received, or how much the properties were rented out for. More details on the matter will be provided when Parliament next sits in July, it added.
Several PAP Members of Parliament (MPs) and the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) have indicated that they will pose questions at the sitting.
Three PAP MPs who have filed parliamentary questions since May 16 on the matter, are Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok), Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) and Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC).
Mr Murali noted in a Facebook post on May 18 that he had asked, among others, whether Mr Shanmugam was “involved in his official capacity” in any decisions relating to the rental of these properties; and what measures have been put in place to ensure that the bid process is fair, transparent and competitive.
Mr Sitoh asked for SLA’s standard tenancy operating procedures, and whether SLA had followed these procedures.
Mr Zhulkarnain asked about the circumstances under which the properties came to be rented out to the two Ministers, and how had SLA had marketed the two properties to be leased.
In a statement issued on May 18, the WP said that Leader of the Opposition and WP chief Pritam Singh would ask the Prime Minister at the July sitting, the Government’s reasons for not calling a press conference in May to address the public allegations regarding the matter.
He would ask how the Government will assure the public that both Ministers were not in receipt of any privileged information pertaining to the lease of 26 and 31 Ridout Road; and also whether there are any rules, conventions or policies to ensure that Cabinet Ministers do not take advantage of privileged information received in the course of their official or non-official duties, in regard to the lease of government properties.
The WP’s statement added: “We call on the SLA to release all relevant and material facts in advance, such as the guide rent for both properties, so as to make for a fuller and more meaningful debate in Parliament.”