Corruption cases hit 32-year low in 2016

A visitor trying out the mobile app The Graftbusters' Trail at a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau exhibition.
A visitor trying out the mobile app The Graftbusters' Trail at a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau exhibition.PHOTO: ST FILE

The number of cases tackled by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) last year was the lowest in 32 years.

The bureau received 808 complaints - including some that were not related to corruption - down from 877 in 2015. Of these, 118, or 14.6 per cent, were registered for investigation. This is the lowest number since 1984.

Most of the corruption complaints that were not pursued contained insufficient, vague or unsubstantiated information.

"Corruption in Singapore remains at low levels and... the situation is well under control. But we must not rest on our laurels. Corruption will always be a work-in-progress because of the innate human nature of greed and temptation," said CPIB director Wong Hong Kuan.

The numbers were disclosed yesterday at the launch of a new anti-bribery standard by the bureau and Spring Singapore which can benefit local companies that are expanding overseas.

Mr Wong said most of the cases investigated by the CPIB were from the private sector. They accounted for 85 per cent of all cases registered for investigation last year - down by 4 percentage points from 2015.

The remaining 15 per cent came from the public sector. Although this was a slight increase from the 11 per cent recorded in 2015, the CPIB noted that due to the small numbers, the 4 percentage point increase "is not significant".

There were 104 individuals convicted of corruption offences last year: 100 were private-sector employees, and the remaining four were from the public sector.

The CPIB noted that areas of concern highlighted in the private- sector cases centred on maintenance work relating to removal of copper cables, cleaning and water-proofing services and the purchase and supply of fire safety, electrical and mechanical equipment at wholesalers and retailers.

Spring and the CPIB said one way to help businesses enhance anti-bribery controls is to have an effective compliance programme such as the new Singapore Standard ISO 37001 (SS ISO 37001) that was announced yesterday.

The ISO 37001 standard that Singapore is adopting was developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in October last year.

The standard, which companies can adopt voluntarily, will help Singapore firms manage corruption risk when they venture overseas. Spring said companies would gain an "additional stamp of confidence" in their systems and processes to help them grow internationally.

"Spring will be working with public and private stakeholders to provide assistance in terms of training, consultancy, certification and funding," said Ms Choy Sauw Kook, assistant chief executive for quality and excellence at Spring Singapore.

The standard includes a series of measures that represent globally recognised anti-bribery good practices. They include anti-bribery policy and training for staff, project risk assessments, financial and contractual controls.

Spring and the Singapore Accreditation Council will be working with stakeholders to develop an accreditation scheme so that relevant bodies can provide SS ISO 37001 certification services by the end of this year.

The CPIB also launched an anti-corruption guide for businesses yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'Corruption cases hit 32-year low in 2016'. Print Edition | Subscribe