Who will guard the guards themselves?
(quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
Roman poet & satirist (55 AD - 127 AD)
.....Ms Koh suggested that ministers and MPs make annual public declarations of their interests. In theory this is more transparent, but in practice countries have not always found this an effective way to prevent corruption. We considered introducing such a requirement in Singapore but decided that, for the present, it is better to have ministers and MPs continue to make declarations to the Prime Minister.
In today's ST forum, the Press Secretary of the Prime Minister, wrote a letter in response to the some suggestions with regard to the updated Code of Conduct for Ministers.
What is interesting about the reply, is that despite its length, it still offered no good reason why MPs should not make public their business interests. The best the letter could come up with, is that making the declarations to the Prime Minister, is enough to prevent corruption.
I may be wrong, but didn't the public declaration of Durai's (NKF) pay to the public cause so much outroar that they had to change the whole board and their pay system?
Sure, it is not corruption (because the CEO's exorbitant pay was approved by the board), but didn't the public declaration do a whole lot of good for NKF?
Didn't the declaration provke a whole lot of discussion on charity work in Singapore? A discussion that will do all charities a whole lot of good?
If the business interests are legitimate, I don't see why the public will cry foul. Most of these information is in public domain anyway, you just have to look through the board members of public listed companies to see which ministers are on the board.
You think about it, Durai's pay package was approved by the NKF board. The board should be the ones providing good governance to NKF and serve as a check to the CEO. And look what happened. Not very effective right?
On one hand, we are advocating full transparency of Charities, and on the other, non-disclosure of the ministers' business interests.
Why are disclosing these information important? As a citizen, who is directly affected by the government's policy, I want my country's ministers to be fully committed to his task. Every person has only 24 hrs a day, and I don't want most of my ministers time to be going to board meetings or AGMs. And not to mention the possible conflict of interest between government policies and the minister's company.
I am sure the Prime Minister will do a good job policing the ministers for us. But, let me put it this way: The guards are there to protect us, but who's guarding the guards? I doesn't do us any good if there is weak check and balances in this regard.
That is why, unless it's a matter of national security, I don't understand why the business interests of ministers should not be made public.
Isn't honestly the best policy?