Muis: Probe into halal certification practices completed

Findings of independent review panel and its own internal investigation given to MCCY

Allegations of questionable halal certification practices by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) have been investigated and the findings have been submitted to the Government, said Muis yesterday.

The council said in a release that the findings of an independent review panel tasked to review its certification process, as well as the findings of its own internal investigation, have been submitted to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY). The outcome will be made known in due course.

Muis added that while the outcome of the investigation is pending, an officer against whom the allegations were made has been removed from handling matters relating to the recognition of foreign halal certification bodies (FHCBs).

FHCBs are organisations Muis deems to have similar standards to its own when it comes to halal certification and whose products are certified as halal, or fit for consumption by Muslims, when imported into Singapore. These organisations can earn thousands of dollars monthly by selling exported products to Singapore.

Since April, Muis has made several public statements in response to allegations by Hong Kong-based news outlet Asia Sentinel that the council showed favouritism in its recognition of FHCBs. Other articles have been published repeating and furthering the accusations.

In response to these, Muis had said in June that an internal investigation team, as well as an independent review panel, chaired by Muis Council Member and retired audit director from the Auditor-General's Office Mr Abdul Hamid Abdullah, had been established to review the allegations.

Muis said yesterday that it has been alerted to an online article falsely attributing remarks to Mr Abdul Hamid and containing several other inaccuracies.

The article, whose origin Muis did not identify, also alleged that individuals who assisted in the council's investigations were coerced into signing non-disclosure agreements before submitting evidence.

The council denied this, and said that individuals assisting in investigations were requested to sign such an agreement to safeguard the confidentiality of the investigation process. None of them objected, added Muis.

Social media posts regarding the outcome of the investigation process are still circulating, casting aspersions on the integrity of the process, warned Muis.

The council said: "This is irresponsible. We ask that such parties cease doing so and allow due process to take place. Muis will update on the investigation outcome after the matter has been considered by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth."

In April, Hong Kong-based news outlet Asia Sentinel alleged that a Muis official was being investigated for corruption by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), a claim a CPIB spokesman would neither confirm nor deny, citing confidentiality issues.

Muis has clarified that key decisions on halal certification are not made by one person but by an independent panel and that the certification of FHCBs is held to the same rigorous standards as the local certification processes.

The story has been edited for accuracy.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2020, with the headline Muis: Probe into halal certification practices completed. Subscribe