Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang): Mr Chairman, strong institutions and good governance are key in ensuring continued political and economic progress. Singaporeans quite rightly expect high standards of conduct from our elected and public officials. Maintaining public trust is crucial for the effective functioning of our Parliamentary democracy.
How then can we better manage and minimise potential or even perceived conflicts of interest for our elected officials and in the Civil Service to ensure the integrity of our public institutions?
While the Parliamentary Act 1962 prohibits the over exchange of gifts and fees for influence in Parliament and civil servants are governed by a Code of Conduct which articulates key conduct principle and expected behaviour, the lack of public knowledge of how different interest groups are advanced and handled can lead to misunderstandings or speculations that damage the trust and standing of our elected officials and public institutions.
A possible way of managing and deterring potential conflicts of interest is to shine a stronger light of scrutiny on activities that serve to advance various interest groups.
Will the Prime Minister Office consider a mechanism to create and administer a public system of declaration for these purposes?
Taking the EU Transparency Register as an example, the ideas to open about what interests are being pursued, by whom and with what budgets? It requires that all organisations and interest groups that seek to influence directly or indirectly, policy-making EU institutions including elected officials are registered on the Transparency Register and need to follow a code of conduct. This system is not perfect, but it is a good start.
Of course, such mechanisms are not silver bullets. But if they are designed well, they can go some way to reduce real and perceived conflicts of interest. In doing so, they bolster the public confidence in our Public Service, Legislature and Government by enhancing understanding, full transparency.
Prime Minister’s Office
24 February 2023