Duty of companies to keep an eye on agents

Many Singaporeans would have welcomed the statement from Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law, on the Keppel Offshore & Marine saga (Keppel unit 'did not get off lightly' for role in graft scandal; Jan 9).

It will be of concern to many, as increasingly, local companies are being encouraged to venture abroad by the Government, and indeed, many Temasek-linked companies have a large footprint overseas.

It is a usual practice for such companies to hire consultants and agents who are more familiar with the local procedures, practices and codes so that work can be carried out efficiently and expediently.

These agents should not be left to go about their business unchecked.

It should remain the responsibility of the board of these companies and the management team hiring such agents and consultants to ensure that the agents do not get involved in illegal activities.

Saying that they were not aware of the goings-on is totally unacceptable. It is the most irresponsible statement a company's board could possibly make.

The Government must take severe action against the executives of Keppel O&M if they are found to have unscrupulously flouted the laws of the country they operated in and also Singapore's laws.

I strongly urge the Government to go a step further by demanding that the boards of other government-linked companies carry out immediate checks to ensure that anything similar is not going on.

There is no doubt that the Singapore Government's image has taken a hit. What follow-up it does will be scrutinised by the whole world. This is a golden opportunity for the Government to show how seriously Singapore is treating the matter.

Rajasegaran Ramasamy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline 'Duty of companies to keep an eye on agents'. Print Edition | Subscribe