Slight increase in Singapore public-sector cases registered for corruption investigations last year

The number of corruption-related reports received by the CPIB last year decreased to its lowest in at least five years. — AFP pic
The number of corruption-related reports received by the CPIB last year decreased to its lowest in at least five years. — AFP pic

SINGAPORE, April 26 — Public-sector cases registered for investigation inched up last year, even as incidence of corruption remained low in Singapore, said the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) as it released its latest statistics yesterday.

These cases increased to 13 last year, from eight in 2017. They made up 12 per cent of the 107 cases registered for investigation last year, up slightly from 8 per cent in 2017.

The remaining cases involved private-sector individuals, including some who tried to bribe public-sector employees but were rejected.

The number of corruption-related reports received by the CPIB last year decreased to its lowest in at least five years. From 475 corruption-related reports which the bureau received in 2015 — the highest in the past five years — the figure fell to 358 last year.

While all corruption complaints are investigated, a case is only registered for investigation if the information received can be pursued, said the bureau.

Reports that cannot be pursued are those with vague or unsubstantiated information, and which do not provide sufficient leads.

A pattern in private sector cases

Last year, 112 individuals were charged in court for offences investigated by the CPIB. Five were from the public sector — a decrease from nine in 2017 — while everyone else was from the private sector.

The 107 private-sector individuals prosecuted marked a decrease of 19 per cent from 2017.

A significant proportion of private-sector individuals prosecuted were involved in either construction activities or building maintenance work, the CPIB noted.

Those caught for shady activities were involved in works such as water leakage repair, air-conditioning maintenance, painting and building maintenance-related inspections.

Polygraph testing and interview skills

Capabilities in computer forensics, forensic accounting and polygraph testing are crucial in the cracking of cases, the CPIB noted.

Apart from having a highly specialised unit to conduct financial investigations, the bureau said it has further developed the capabilities of its computer forensics branch.

A recent case which it highlighted involved law firm executive Gulzar Raja Singh Sandhu, who bribed Traffic Police clerk Khatijah A. Manap for over two years to obtain the contact numbers of 23 people involved in traffic accidents.

Raja would cold-call the accident victims and, on some occasions, offered the services of his daughter, a lawyer at Clifford Law.

The CPIB said it could not establish any corrupt dealings between Raja and Khatijah in its preliminary investigations, but polygraph testing suggested Raja had not been entirely truthful during interviews.

It made a breakthrough after analysing bank statements, and officers spoke to more than 30 accident victims to uncover crucial information.

Raja was sentenced to 18 weeks’ jail last year, while Khatijah was sentenced in 2016 to 18 weeks’ jail and fined S$2,500 (RM7,620).

In another case first reported in 2016, Mohamed Sa’ad Mohamed Ali, a technical officer with the national water agency PUB, duped his employer into awarding contracts worth almost S$2 million to companies registered under his wife’s name. The CPIB said officers had to rely on their interview skills to uncover wrongdoings, as well as forensic accounting to identify and trace criminal proceeds.

The case involved more than 700 transactions that took place between 2005 and 2012.

Sa’ad spent the proceeds on a vehicle, an insurance policy, a factory unit and mortgage loans, among other things. The assets seized were liquidated and the funds were returned to the PUB, said the bureau.

Sa’ad was sentenced to three years and nine months’ jail last year.

Ranked highly last year

Singapore had its best showing since 2010 on Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

It was ranked the third-least corrupt country last year out of 181, up three places from sixth place in 2017.

The index measures “perceived levels of public sector corruption”, and Singapore is the only Asian country among the top 10.

Transparency International, a civil society organisation, also gave Singapore a score of 85 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (least corrupt). This was Singapore’s best score since 2015, when it a received a similar mark. — TODAY

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