Can MPs juggle company and resident commitments?

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin was recently appointed chairman of Healthway Medical Corporation's new medical advisory board, raising the question of whether being Speaker should be a full-time job (Post of Parliament Speaker should be full-time, by Mr Cheng Shoong Tat; April 7).

He is not the only parliamentarian to be on the board of a company.

The question that should be asked is whether holding such posts affects MPs' commitment to their constituents.

It is not uncommon to see MPs frequently absent from Parliament. The ugly sight of empty seats can probably be explained by the busy schedules of MPs who have full-time jobs and commitments.

But such frequent absences is a reflection of the MP's poor time management as he shuttles between his full-time and part-time roles.

How can citizens be assured that this behaviour does not contravene the code of conduct of MPs?

One solution would be to cap the number of directorships and advisory roles an MP can take.

Another is to mandate that MPs serve full-time for a number of years before they can be part-time MPs.

Ms Tin Pei Ling and Ms Sylvia Lim are examples of MPs who gave up their jobs to focus on their roles as elected MPs.

The Government should also publish a full list of MPs who hold directorship and advisory posts in private and listed companies, so ordinary Singaporeans can scrutinise their involvement easily and for free.

MPs who take up directorship and advisory roles must do it strictly in a private capacity. Singaporeans must be assured that there is no conflict of interest between the MP's elected role and his role as a director.

It is important that MPs gain the trust of their residents as well as participate actively in Parliament debates.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'Can MPs juggle company and resident commitments?'. Print Edition | Subscribe