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The Government Needs to Come Clean on How and Why Contracts Were Awarded to Surbana Jurong


The posts about Surbana Jurong profiting from the explosion of Covid cases among foreign workers, for which Josephine Teo (whose husband appears to be No.2 or 3 at Surbana) must take some responsibility, have drawn an angry response from the company. Legal threats have been bandied about:

We absolutely refute the allegations and will not hesitate to take legal action against any perpetrator who continues to make scurrilous attacks against our company.”

Unfortunately the PAP Government’s (or its myriad agencies, statutory boards and companies which collectively account for well over 50% of the economy) standard response when any questions are raised is to threaten legal action or to use repressive instruments like the Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to try and shut citizens up rather than providing the information that would put to rest any rumours. We saw this with the rapid barrage of POFMAs from Seat Warmer-in-Waiting Heng Swee Keat as he desperately tried to stop speculation about his master’s wife’s salary, even though she supposedly works for a private company and has nothing to do with the Government.

The standard response of the PAP to uncomfortable questions is not to shine a light on muddy waters in the interests of transparency and accountability but instead to behave as though we have no right to know about the way our elite divide up the spoils of office or how much they pay themselves out of public funds. Their attitude can be summed up as “How dare you ignorant peasants ask questions of your meritocratically selected betters! Let us get on with the tough business of governing and paying ourselves and our spouses and children salaries appropriate to our vast talents while you stick to scratching a living. And don’t you dare ask us for handouts! You must be self-reliant and resilient.”

In my last blog I said that Surbana Jurong was only 51% owned by Temasek with the remaining shareholding held by Jurong Town Corporation (JTC). That was not correct as in June 2016 Temasek acquired JTC’s shares. We need to be told the terms on which Temasek acquired JTC’s shares. Even though Temasek is a state-owned holding company (though the Government is going to some lengths to bamboozle Singaporeans into thinking that Temasek is a private company and therefore the remuneration of its CEO and other top executives is a private matter), the bonuses of its senior management, and in particular the PM’s wife, are determined by the performance of its portfolio. If JTC’s shares were transferred below market value then that would trigger a revaluation gain at Temasek which would be reflected in the performance-related bonus pool for senior executives (read more money for Ho Ching!).

Though Surbana’s board might angrily retort that there has been no profiteering from the contracts it was awarded to build (or manage the construction of) the temporary facilities at Singapore Expo (another Temasek-owned entity), this is moot unless the Government can show that the contracts were put out to open tender. Until it does so we have no way of knowing whether Surbana was the cheapest and best proposal. If it was not then Singaporeans will have been cheated and forced to pay higher costs than they need to.

When the Government owns so much of the economy and directs business to state-owned companies headed by relatives of Ministers from the PM downwards without competition, it is impossible to know whether Singaporeans are getting a good deal. However basic economics teaches us that where there is monopoly part of the excess profits will be taken in the form of decreased efficiency, featherbedding and increased costs, not least in the salaries of the top executives at those companies. By benchmarking their remuneration against their peers at other state-owned companies, they can collectively raise their pay even though it is completely unnecessary to attract and retain talent (though a glance at the CVs of many of these people suggests that their chief talent lies in being related to people in Government rather than the quality of their academic qualifications!). Even if their relatives are not beneficiaries, MInisters are happy because higher “private” (actually state-owned) sector pay boosts their remuneration via the circular mechanism set up by the ministerial pay review in 2011.

The PAP Government, which includes its vast network of agencies, statutory boards and companies, thrives on secrecy and fails basic tests of accountability and transparency. Singaporeans have no idea whether they are getting value for money and who is benefiting just as they have no idea of the size of the reserves and how the reserves will benefit them. Something as basic as how much the PM pays his wife remains a state secret. We need a Freedom of Information Act like in the US and the UK but we also need to ensure that there are enough Opposition MPs in Parliament to held the Government to account. This election will show whether Singaporeans are indeed interested in genuine reform.

5 Comments »

  1. https://www.allsingaporestuff.com/article/close-down-useless-stat-boards-science-centre-singapore/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=200511

    Looking at the way Singapore Government spends its money, I think there is a lot of room for improvement.

    https://www.allsingaporestuff.com/article/close-down-useless-stat-boards-science-centre-singapore/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=200511

    There are many statutory boards that can be privatised and should belong to the private sector,such as Science Centre Singapore. Science centre singapore is a statutory board under MOE. Their annual report can also be found at https://www.science.edu.sg/about-us/media-centre/annual-report.

    Look at pg 7 of their report. They got approximately 70 million dollars of grants from the govt in the past 2 FYs under operating grants from govt and grants from other govt agencies. Cant this 70million dollars be used more prudently for other uses like building better school infrastructure or healthcare, building more ICU units? And poor taxpayers money have been used to upkeep the science centre from since 1978. Dunno how much money has been wasted.

    In fact, staff costs is the largest expenditure for a staff strength of a few people, so it means the staff are overpaid when the money can be put to better use, like building better education facilities and healthcare infrastructure.

    Who actually goes to the Science centre nowadays? With the sophiscated equipment in schools and so many other educational service providers and Art Science Museum, do we still need a science centre? Comparing the exhibits of Art Science museum and science centre singapore, the exhibits of Art Science Musemum are much better, and Art Science Museum is privately funded. So to increase the quality of exhibits in science centre, we should make science centre Singapore private and cut government funding to them. This will put spurs in their hides and make them work better.

    Like

    • Its already a waste of money since many years back. I wonder what they do with our CPF money and especially those minimum sum and medisave fund which keep changes rules every years? Why not they the peppies be more clear and justified in doing their duties for the sake of the peoples? Hope that the medisave fund can be given back to us at least 30 / 40 % out of the fund for people like me in need of money for my financial problems. Not only me maybe there are more like me out there too.

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  2. “… but we also need to ensure that there are enough Opposition MPs in Parliament to held the Government to account. This election will show whether Singaporeans are indeed interested in genuine reform.”

    Absolutely spot-on. And yes, I am waiting for the opportunity to VETO the pappy politicians out of Parliament, in our next GE.

    Like

  3. It is time to bring these bastards down and send them to prison for cheating Singaporeans. already our rights have been sold to the New CITIZENS! they are the ones who are benefiting. I dont want these kind of scoundrels to lead me

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  4. You are raising far too many uncomfortable, inconvenient and hard questions, but totally important and relevant.

    What next?

    Further to the questioning, what other actions can be taken?

    We don’t expect them to give out any truthful answers even to a elected MP no less.
    🤷🤔🤔🤔

    Like

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