Singapore's reputation as a squeaky clean nation went up a notch in an annual league table that ranks nations on their lack of corruption.
After staying in seventh place in recent years, Singapore climbed to sixth last year, ahead of 179 countries in the annual index compiled by Transparency International.The index ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The 2017 index is constructed based on 13 surveys and assessments.
In Singapore's case, the surveys used included the World Bank, the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Economist Intelligence Unit and others.
Once again, New Zealand was rated the least corrupt country in the world followed by Denmark, Finland, Norway and Switzerland.
Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said the country continues to see a low incidence of corruption. The number of corruption complaints received and cases registered for investigation hit new lows in 2016.
"The incidence of public sector corruption in Singapore is one of the lowest in the world," said CPIB director Wong Hong Kuan.
Transparency International regional director Alejandro Salas said that perceptions related to the Brazilian bribery case involving Keppel Offshore & Marine had not been picked up yet.
WORLD CORRUPTION INDEX 2017
1 New Zealand
3 Finland Norway Switzerland
6 Singapore Sweden
The scandal broke late last December when American prosecutors disclosed that the firm had agreed to pay a US$422 million (S$557 million) settlement to avoid a criminal trial for bribing Brazilian officials.
Keppel O&M, the world's largest rig builder, is a unit of Keppel Corp, which was 20.43 per cent owned by Temasek Holdings as at November last year.
Mr Salas noted: "Even countries like Singapore... still have a long way to go to fully eradicate corruption... The (Keppel) case clearly shows how there is corruption linked to Singapore. Furthermore, if the country prides itself as being clean and firm against corruption, then the companies that... are the face of the country around the world should 'export' those clean business practices they so much take pride in."
Local political observer Eugene Tan, a law professor at the Singapore Management University, said the Keppel saga has hurt Singapore's high standards of probity. "We cannot casually differentiate corruption committed abroad from corruption committed domestically," he added.
"Such inconsistent conduct is a sure recipe for tolerating corruption especially when it seems to convey benefit. We need to be very careful not to 'import' undesirable practices and undo a key strength of our reputation."
Ms Gillian Koh, deputy director of research at the Institute of Policy Studies, said the survey result reflects that Singapore has a system that deters corruption.
"That we are not at the top of the chart means that there are instances of corruption even if they are dealt with, but we have a system to address it and the incidence is low compared to elsewhere."