Thursday 8 August 2013

CPIB to get new chief

By Tham Yuen-c, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2013

A NEW director is to take charge of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in a move to rebuild public trust in the unit hit recently by a $1.7 million scandal.

At the same time, two directors who were at the helm when the supervisory lapses occurred were issued warning letters.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) announced that Mr Wong Hong Kuan, 42, currently the chief executive of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, will take over from CPIB director Eric Tan, 52.

Mr Tan, who has been at the CPIB since 2010, will step down on Sept 30 at the end of his term. Mr Tan, together with his predecessor, Mr Soh Kee Hean, 48, now the deputy executive director of the Council for Estate Agencies, were given warnings.

The moves come two weeks after Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong, 39, an assistant director at the bureau, was charged in court for siphoning off $1.7 million meant to pay for the bureau's operations, from 2008 until his ruse was uncovered last year.

An independent review into the case concluded that supervisory lapses had led to a lack of financial controls at the bureau, and the two directors were deemed to have been responsible for Yeo.
"Both directors had supervisory and command responsibilities over Mr Edwin Yeo and his unit in CPIB... (and) have been issued formal letters of warning for their lapses, and have accepted responsibility for them," said the PMO, which oversees the bureau.

It added that it was replacing Mr Tan to "maintain public trust and confidence in CPIB and to fully implement the review panel's recommendations".

The PMO said, however, that Mr Tan had made "many contributions to CPIB, strengthening the organisation and handling major corruption cases", and will be redeployed. It did not say where he would be posted, but said that he will be undertaking duties where his "knowledge and experience will be valuable".

Member of Parliament Edwin Tong, who is deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, called the change in leadership a mark of how seriously the Government views the lapses at the CPIB.

"It is a significant signal from the Government that this will not be tolerated," he said. "The CPIB is supposed to be the Government's watchdog, when you have lapses within it, it's something serious. And it's not just transient lapses, but over a sustained period of time."

Before taking over from Mr Soh in 2010, Mr Tan was head of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. A Public Service Commission scholar, he had also been with the Internal Security Department, Central Narcotics Bureau and Singapore Police Force.

His successor, Mr Wong, also cut his teeth in the police force, where he started out in 1995 as an assistant superintendent. Mr Wong did not reply to a request for comments yesterday.

New CPIB chief has roots in police force
By Tham Yuen-c, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2013

ALTHOUGH Mr Wong Hong Kuan - who will soon be director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) - is currently in the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, he has spent much of his public service career as a police officer.

In 1995, Mr Wong, 42, joined the force as an assistant superintendent after graduating with first-class honours in accounting from Nanyang Technological University.

Over the years, he moved up the ranks and became deputy commissioner in 2010.

During his time in the force, he had been put in charge of providing security at major events here, such as the Apec meeting in 2009.

A former colleague, Mr Paul Lim, 42 and now chief executive officer of security firm Soverus, said Mr Wong stood out because of his "heart".

"Even though we are a regimental organisation in the police force, he shows compassion and balances out his decisions with love and care for fellow colleagues and subordinates," he said.

Mr Wong was absorbed into the Administrative Service in 1998. Since 2011, he has been head of the WDA, where he spearheaded efforts to make the organisation's services more accessible to professionals, managers, executives and the special needs community and ex-offenders.

He will join the anti-graft bureau as its director-designate on Sept 1, and will take over from current director Eric Tan on Oct 1.

Restoring confidence on 3 fronts

THE warnings issued to the current and preceding directors of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) are a step in the right direction ("CPIB to get new chief"; yesterday).

If we include the replacement of the current CPIB director, no fewer than three heads of government agencies have been removed from their posts over the past 18 months.

This litany of misconduct and maladministration by high-level government officials is a source of concern and dismay for all Singaporeans.

Singapore's success has, in no small part, been built on our reputation for the incorruptibility of our institutions and the competency and professionalism of our government administration.

This has been not only a reputational advantage in our dealings with the rest of the world, but also a source of immense pride for every Singaporean.

Both this reputational advantage and this visceral pride have been humbled by the recent episodes.

There is an urgent and critical need to restore confidence within three communities.

First and foremost, it is about restoring the trust between the public service and the people it serves. This is a task that should be fronted by political office-holders.

Second, repairing the relationship between the heads and officers of public agencies. This requires public service leaders at all levels to uphold themselves to be worthy of the followership of their staff.

Finally, it is about restoring the trust that the rest of the world has in Singapore to live up to our hard-won reputation for clean and effective governance. This is a task in which every Singaporean has a role to play.

One part of playing that role is to retain our perspective and not lose faith in ourselves or our system.

There are some 130,000 public servants who continue to deserve our respect as professionals who serve their fellow countrymen.

They include health-care personnel, enforcement officers, finance officers, safety officials and a multitude of others playing a myriad of roles in the public interest.

They will need the support of Singaporeans to repair what must certainly be a sense of professional and personal disappointment.

Let us believe that, despite these episodes, we can be not just better, but even the best version of ourselves.

Right now, that may start with having more verification in systems and processes, but it also means having a little faith and a lot of understanding.

Devadas Krishnadas
ST Forum, 8 Aug 2013

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