Round-up Speech by SM Teo Chee Hean on the Review of the Rentals of State Properties at 26 and 31 Ridout Road on 3 July 2023 at Parliament
Round-up Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean on the Review of the Rentals of State Properties at 26 and 31 Ridout Road in Parliament on 3 July 2023.
We have had a very wide ranging discussion. And I think it is useful to bring matters to some conclusion and to be able to structure what we have discussed today. The Prime Minister has given a comprehensive statement on this matter, and I do not intend to make a very long round-up speech.
So, what are the main takeaways?
Closing the Case
First and foremost, why are we here? We are here because there have been allegations made against Ministers of corruption, other acts of abuse of power, and so on. So this is the first issue we have to deal with. On this, and most importantly, the CPIB has investigated the matter thoroughly, interviewed all relevant parties including the ministers and their spouses, even looked through their phones, and concluded that there was no corruption or criminal wrongdoing. The AGC has reviewed the Investigation papers and agreed with CPIB’s findings. There is no offence and no further action is needed. The CPIB case is closed.
There was proper declaration and conduct by all persons involved to avoid conflicts of interest. There was also no abuse of power and no access to privileged information. The persons involved in the rental of these two properties understood their responsibilities to act with integrity, and did so. Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a credit to our officers and the system as a whole.
Members have asked many clarifications, and my colleagues and I have answered all of them. Mr Singh said no one is alleging corruption, and I am glad that he said so; that there is no corruption, no abuse of power. I think the only remaining issue is this one of conflict of interest. We have explained at length what the concept of conflict of interest is: potential conflict of interest, and actual conflict of interest. This has been dealt with, particularly in the case of Minister Shanmugam and the rental of 26 Ridout Road. Now, there is this lingering issue of perceived conflict of interest. And as I have explained, if we have dealt adequately and completely with the potential conflict of interest and there has been no actual conflict of interest, then actually a fair-minded person will come to the conclusion that therefore, there is no basis for a perceived conflict of interest. So this concludes the first part of our discussion.
There were a number of useful points raised regarding the management of State properties and land, in particular of Black and White bungalows. This is an associated issue and Minister Edwin Tong has addressed these points quite fully. He has addressed these points and also the various suggestions and will be looking into the optimisation and use of State land which SLA has been doing, and in particular those which are not yet slated for redevelopment.
Upholding Integrity and Incorruptibility
The second set of issues is important and it really is a reaffirmation of our collective belief in the importance of a clean government, and for those in public service, whether elected or public officers, to act with integrity.
Sir, the Prime Minister acted firmly on this matter. Although the reports he received from Ministry of Law and SLA did not indicate a high likelihood of wrongdoing, he nevertheless directed CPIB to investigate the matter when he was overseas, so that the matter could be examined independently and thoroughly to get to the bottom of things – either prove that nothing was wrong and put the allegations to rest as we have done today, or, if the investigation turned up wrongdoing, to act on it. We have come to Parliament to present the findings, and we have answered the many questions and clarifications sought. The Prime Minister has spoken about the government’s commitment to integrity and the high standard in the workings of our government and our country.
Underpinning this is an ever vigilant CPIB, but this is not enough. The CPIB is assisted by a vigilant public and a vigilant public service. And this is what we need in order to maintain integrity, honesty and incorruptibility in our country. Members have made several useful comments and suggestions on the Code of Conduct. And as I stated earlier, we will consider specifically how to introduce declarations for rental property transactions for the relevant agencies and public officers dealing with land and property matters, and also have a look at these issues for Ministers and PAP MPs.
Sir, upholding a system of governance with a high standard of integrity is a collective and continuous effort. We have achieved a remarkable standard. Just think about it: A member of the public would be outraged and report it if a public officer were to ask him for a bribe. And more importantly, a public officer would be outraged if he were offered a bribe, and would report the person who had done so. This is a virtuous circle that we must maintain. And the work is never done.
An inclusive, progressive and fair society
Finally, there was this broader point underlying this discussion on equity – whether it is fair and how to uplift all our citizens. I believe this is a shared aspiration of Members from both sides of this House.
This government is definitely dedicated to building an inclusive, progressive society.
This is the driving motivation that underpins government policies – particularly in education, housing, healthcare and retirement adequacy. Our aim is to mobilise everyone to work together, to grow the economy, to share the fruits of growth widely, to uplift the most needy among us, as well as the broad mass of Singaporeans. To bridge that divide, to uplift everyone, as Minister Shanmugam said in his own experience.
In housing, we have done more than almost any other country to secure good homes for nearly every citizen, and will ensure that there will always be sufficient and affordable HDB flats for every Singaporean household. At the same time, we take care to keep the right balance with a whole range of housing types. We have HDB, ECs, and private property, including black and white houses. It needs to be so. If people work hard and do well, they should be able to aspire to live in a better home in Singapore, to continue to contribute here in Singapore to Singapore.
Good governance and good politics
Sir, I am 69 years old this year, and have served more than 30 years in politics and 20 years before that in public service. My most important task in the last half a dozen years has been to help the Prime Minister to prepare, not just the 4th Generation leadership, but also to make sure that we have a system in place, that we are able to have a 5th generation of leaders coming in, having the time to learn, to be tested, and to gain the trust and support of Singaporeans.
These are people in their 30s and 40s. Many would be at the threshold, where they have a good chance of reaching the peak in their chosen careers and professions. We have to bring them in and have them contribute.
All members of this House know that coming into politics entails many sacrifices, in privacy, continuous exposure to the glare of the public eye, especially in this age of social media, in their careers, in family time, and not always being there to watch your kids grow.
If they have served well, the satisfaction of having done so is the biggest reward. That makes it all worthwhile.
The biggest challenge we face is to continue bringing in the best team, to do the best for Singapore and Singaporeans. And I am glad today, that in this House, we have agreed to focus on the facts and the truths, not just on wild allegations or rumours or perceptions. But focus on the facts and the truth. This is important so that we can build a system, a strong foundation, which will help bring in good people to continue to serve in government and take Singapore further forward.
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