The People's Action Party expects its candidates to have high standards of integrity, and to go out of their way to send a signal that even the slightest whiff of wrongdoing will not be tolerated.
"When it comes to issues of integrity, if there are questions raised that certain things were missed, even if it's within the law, if we find that our processes are not up to scratch, we do not hide behind the law," said party organising secretary Ng Eng Hen yesterday.
"We will tell our candidates, we expect you to have higher standards," he said, adding that this should be the case for all political leaders regardless of their party affiliation.
Dr Ng, who is Defence Minister, was replying to a question on the Workers' Party-run town council, which has come under fire from the Ministry of National Development (MND) for overpaying its former managing agent, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS).
MND had written to Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) chairman Sylvia Lim on Saturday and issued a statement to say a regulatory review of FMSS' auditor found it had been grossly profiteering off its sole client, AHPETC.
NO 'ONE SIZE FITS ALL' POLICY
When (opposition parties) and other Singaporeans say that Government doesn't have all the answers, I think they are absolutely right. We don't have all the answers, and you can't have all the answers, because you can't have a single policy that is "one size fits all" and meets all the needs of Singaporeans.
The PAP Government has always taken the attitude that we should be open to ideas, and we've asked: What ideas do you have?
So, from my point of view, I'll take the ideas from these manifestos and study and consider them.
If we have not studied them before, we'll ask ourselves why. If we have studied them before, we'll ask: Are they more relevant now?
I think we should be open to the ideas of manifestos of opposition parties. If we are not going to accept them, we should have a good reason why not, and I think Singaporeans will want to know.
I find it good, useful... that they bring it up, and we can put these ideas to Singaporeans to decide.
PAP ORGANISING SECRETARY NG ENG HEN, when asked about the manifestos of opposition parties
In reply, Ms Lim, who is WP chairman, said payments made to FMSS were in accordance with contracts, and cannot be overpayment.
Dr Ng said yesterday that when things go wrong, it is not enough to simply comply with the letter of the law. Instead, it is crucial to tackle the issue thoroughly in order to send the signal that high standards of integrity must be upheld.
"When things go wrong... the way you address it is crucial not only for Singaporeans but for the own people you lead, your own organisation, the signals you send," he said.
"Are they just going to comply with the letter of the law or are they going to go the extra mile to not only be doing the right thing, but be seen to be doing the right thing?"
He stressed that his call to keep to higher standards was not specific to AHPETC, but applied more broadly. "Whenever we are in charge of public monies or have public trust, let's go the extra mile in reassuring Singaporeans that we're going to keep to the high standards of honesty, integrity, accountability that our founding fathers put in place."
Dr Ng, a cancer surgeon, also said that once people are lax, things start to slide, and likened corruption to cancer, which must not take root.
"If you let corruption or cancer grow, by the time you try to take the cancer out it's already metastasised ... So you nip it in the bud, you catch it very early, you root it out systematically with full force," he said.
The PAP and all its 89 candidates, who have been unveiled over the past fortnight, see honesty and integrity as the core foundation Singapore was built on, he added.
Dr Ng also said the elections will be about "hope and trust" - the hope that Singapore can do even better than its progress in the past 50 years, and the trust of Singaporeans in their elected representatives.
"This election is about whether you can trust the people you vote for, to deliver what we promise, to be open and honest in our dealings, to be fair, and to take into account Singaporeans' wishes and ideas," he added after meeting residents and shopkeepers in Bishan with his Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC teammates.
He also sensed that the mood on the ground towards the PAP is better than during the 2011 polls, he said, but stressed that the party does not take any votes for granted.
"When we walk around, people are more direct. They come and tell us openly, we're going to support you and the party and we're happy with what you've done," said Dr Ng.
"But if you've done enough elections, you take nothing for granted... We leave ourselves to the good hands of our voters, and let them judge."