September 19, 2012
My Mission is to establish a Clean and Efficient Government–LKY
In a region where corruption is endemic, Singapore has remained clean. From 1959 when the PAP first formed the government, we have stamped out corruption. The challenge is to keep corruption free. We have to rid our society of greed, corruption and decadence.
When I became Prime Minister in 1959, my mission was to establish a clean and efficient Government against the backdrop of a corruption-ridden region. We set up systems and processes to ensure that every dollar in revenue was properly accounted for: we sharpened the instruments that could prevent, detect and deter instances where discretionary powers could be abused. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), which was under my care, has succeeded in keeping the country clean.
The CPIB was established by the British in 1952 to tackle the increasing corruption. However, little was done because the CPIB lacked the necessary resources and legal powers. When I took over in 1959, I strengthened the laws and the organisation of CPIB.
We tightened the law on corruption. Wealth disproportionate to a person’s earnings would serve as corroborative evidence when a person is charged for corruption. The CPIB was placed directly under the Prime Minister. And if the Prime Minister were to refuse giving his consent for the CPIB to make any inquiries or to carry out any investigations into any person including the Prime Minister himself, the Director CPIB can seek the concurrence of the President to carry on with the investigations. In other words, nobody is exempt.
Over the years, Singapore has established an effective anti-corruption framework. Leaders must be above suspicion. They must insist on the same high standards of probity of their fellow ministers and of the officials working for them. We do not tolerate corruption.
CPIB has since developed a formidable reputation for its thorough and fearless investigations. The bureau has successfully dealt with a number of corrupt senior government officials including Ministers, Members of Parliament, senior civil servants and prominent businessmen. This is testament to CPIB’s independence. The bureau can discharge its duties in a swift and sure, but firm and fair manner.
The most dramatic case was that of Teh Cheang Wan, then Minister for National Development. In November 1986, he was investigated by the CPIB for accepting two bribes totalling US$1 million (RM3 million). In one case, it was to allow a development company to retain part of its land, which had been earmarked for compulsory government acquisition, and in the other to assist a developer in the purchase of state land for private development. These bribes had taken place in 1981 and 1982.
Teh denied receiving the money and tried to bargain with the Ssenior Assistant Director of the CPIB for the case not to be pursued. He had offered to pay back SG$800,000 in exchange for immunity. The Cabinet Secretary reported this and said Teh had asked to see me. I replied that I could not until the investigations were over as I could become a witness. A week later, on the morning of December 15, 1986, my security officer reported that Teh had died and left me a letter:
I have been feeling very sad and depressed for the last two weeks. I feel responsible for the occurrence of this unfortunate incident and I feel I should accept full responsibility. As an honourable oriental gentleman, I feel it is only right that I should pay the highest penalty for my mistake.
Teh Cheang Wan
CPIB has been and is a tenacious and effective instrument against corruption. The bureau and its officers have contributed to Singapore’s standing, giving confidence to investors that has led to our progress and prosperity.
We must remain vigilant and ensure that Singapore continues to be regarded as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, with a clean public service and businesses that abhor corruption. — TR Emeritus
* Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who was Singapore’s first Prime Minister, wrote a preface for the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau 60th Anniversary commemorative coffee table book. http://www.malaysianinsider.com