SINGAPORE: When it comes to corporate corruption, there is a "bright red line" that Singapore companies should not cross, especially those that Temasek Holdings has a stake in, said its chairman Lim Boon Heng.
He spoke recently to chairpersons of major Temasek portfolio companies and the transcript was released on Monday (Mar 5).
Mr Lim emphasised the importance for companies to uphold the principles of good governance and integrity in business dealings, noting that Singapore has built a global reputation as a clean place for both business and government.
"It is a hallmark of our nation and the fundamental value on which we have built our economy," he said.
"It is no coincidence that we have been consistently rated one of the world’s least corrupt countries. The past conduct and business records of all your companies have contributed to this global recognition. We all have a continuing responsibility to uphold this reputation."
He added: "In markets where practices are questionable and compromising integrity is required to win business or contracts, we have to be very clear – there is a bright red line our companies should not cross."
Mr Lim also made reference to a recent incident in his speech: "What happened recently was a shock, not just to the company concerned, but it really dents the reputation of Singapore and all the other Temasek companies."
Although Mr Lim did not name the company he was referring to, Keppel Offshore & Marine - in which Temasek Holdings owns more than a 20 per cent stake - has made headlines recently with an international bribery scandal involving corrupt payments of more than US$50 million to Brazilian officials over 13 years.
ROUNDTABLE TO FOCUS ON GOVERNANCE, ETHICS
In his speech, Mr Lim also announced that there would be a roundtable "in the next few months" for the senior management of the major Temasek portfolio companies, focusing on questions of governance and ethics.
He asked the chairpersons to bring together their board members, CEOs and key executives for the next roundtable to "align ourselves and set expectations on how we should operate and conduct business, ethically and with proper guidance".
The group will bring in domain experts and draw on companies that have dealt with corruption and bribery to share what they have done and how they have implemented best practices, Mr Lim said. There will also be a series of forums in functional areas such as law and public affairs during the year, he added.
Mr Lim said that while recent news has centred on bribes being paid, "corruption offences are not limited to bribes".
"Corruption takes on many guises," he said. "In many jurisdictions, the penalties for price fixing and collusion are no different to bribery, and the offence no less serious.
"It takes courage to walk away from business opportunities, but it is more important to maintain and protect the reputation of your company and our nation."
Chairpersons and board directors of companies are "stewards" of their companies "entrusted with the responsibility of being the owners and guardians of the company’s reputation", he added. "We must always live up to that trust."