Singtel reclaims top spot as Singapore's most well-governed and transparent company

Singtel has reclaimed its status as Singapore's most well-governed and transparent company.
Singtel has reclaimed its status as Singapore's most well-governed and transparent company.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - Singtel has reclaimed its status as Singapore's most well-governed and transparent company as the Republic's corporate governance standards hit new highs ahead of an index revamp in 2016.

Singtel edged up from second place last year to clinch the top spot in Governance and Transparency Index (GTI) 2015.

The telco, which also topped the index from 2009 to 2012, fared well in overall corporate governance measures used for the GTI. It was also lauded for consistently upholding high corporate governance standards, such as engaging professional consulting firms to independently evaluate remuneration packages for its directors and key management, as well as disclosing the detailed policy on payment of dividends.

Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX) followed closely in second place while Keppel Corporation, last year's winner, came in third.

GTI 2015 ranked a total of 639 SGX-listed companies which released their 2014 annual reports by May 31 this year.

The GTI, launched in 2009, is jointly published annually by CPA Australia and NUS Business School's Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO).

"Standards of corporate governance among Singapore-listed companies have reached an all-time high since the GTI was conceived - a fine tribute to how companies have strived to improve their governance and transparency practices," said Melvin Yong, Singapore country head at CPA Australia.

The GTI 2015 study, released on Tuesday (Aug 18) at the Governance and Transparency Forum organised by CPA Australia and CGIO, found significant overall progress in companies' governance practices, with the mean score increasing from 42.1 in 2014 to 47.6 this year - the highest year-on-year improvement since the index's inception.

Among the top 10 companies in GTI 2015, CapitaLand and DBS Group made positive strides. CapitaLand climbed from 7th place in 2013 to 4th this year, as it disclosed the total remuneration paid to its top five management personnel. It also identified specific key risks and how they are managed in the company with more detail and clarity.

DBS Group fared well with notable improvements in its governance practices, such as its initiative to provide a dedicated hotline service for whistle-blowing operated by an independent external firm, as well as detailed criteria for board and individual director appraisal.

The GTI is closely-aligned with Singapore's Code of Corporate Governance, which was last revised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 2012.

But the business operating environment has changed dramatically in recent years, while stakeholders are more engaged and seek greater transparency and accountability for the integrity of corporate governance in companies.

From next year, companies will be examined under a new framework, the Singapore Governance and Transparency Index (SGTI).

The SGTI iwill be the result of an expanded partnership of CGIO, CPA Australia and the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID).

SID has partnered CGIO over the last three years to produce the rankings of the top 100 listed companies in Singapore using the Asean Corporate Governance Scorecard, which is based on the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance and is being used to provide comparisons of top listed companies across six countries in Asean.

Going forward, CGIO, CPA Australia and SID will work together to build on the current GTI and Asean Scorecard to develop the SGTI, which will leverage the strengths of the GTI and the Asean Scorecard.

"The incorporation of leading international practices will also help ensure that Singapore and its listed companies stay ahead in regional corporate governance rankings," said Joyce Koh, executive director of SID.

Under the SGTI, companies will continue to be assessed on matters relating to board, remuneration, accountability and audit, and transparency and investor relations.

Additional factors such as how they handle a broader range of stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, regulators and the community, will also be taken into account.

In the coming months, CGIO, CPA Australia and SID will examine existing models of corporate governance assessments across the world and apply the relevant lessons to the SGTI.

The SGTI will be supported by the Investment Management Association of Singapore (IMAS) along with The Business Times.