CPIB did not announce Iswaran's arrest initially as it wanted to establish more facts, hear his side: Chan Chun Sing
- CPIB did not announce that Mr S Iswaran had been arrested as it wanted to first establish more facts of the case, said Mr Chan Chun Sing
- He also said that law enforcement agencies including CPIB, usually do not disclose the names of persons who are being investigated
- However, CPIB decided to disclose that Mr Iswaran was assisting CPIB with investigations as the case involved a Minister
- Mr Chan also clarified that CPIB is functionally independent and does not require the Prime Minister’s concurrence to conduct investigations
- He added that if the Prime Minister were to object, the director of CPIB can go directly to the President for her or her concurrence to proceed with a CPIB investigation
SINGAPORE: When the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) first disclosed that Transport Minister S Iswaran was assisting with investigations, it did not state that he had been arrested as it wanted to first establish more facts of the case, as well as hear his side of the story, said Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, Mr Chan Chun Sing on Wednesday (Aug 2).
CPIB had announced on Jul 12 that Mr Iswaran was assisting with investigations but only announced two days later that Mr Iswaran and Hotel Properties Limited managing director Ong Beng Seng had been arrested by the CPIB on Jul 11.
Addressing questions from several Members of Parliament (MP) in parliament, Mr Chan added that law enforcement agencies, including CPIB, usually do not disclose the names of persons being investigated or arrested as there are “good reasons”.
“Say someone has been picked up, arrested, and investigations are ongoing. If it is immediately announced that the person has been arrested and is being investigated, it may prejudice the person,” said Mr Chan, who is also Education Minister.
He said that this would create an impression that the person has done wrong, even if subsequent investigations do not result in any charges brought against him.
“Thus, to be fair to the persons involved, law enforcement agencies generally refrain from immediately naming the persons being investigated,” he said.
For the present case, however, CPIB decided to disclose on Jul 12 that Mr Iswaran was assisting CPIB with investigations as it involved a minister, said Mr Chan.
CPIB DOES NOT REQUIRE PM'S CONCURRENCE TO CONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS
On CPIB's investigations, Mr Leong Mun Wai (NCMP-PSP) and Mr Louis Chua (WP-Sengkang) asked whether all of its investigations require the Prime Minister’s concurrence and if the bureau is obliged to seek his concurrence to open formal investigations for potential offences it has uncovered.
To this, Mr Chan said that although the bureau reports directly to the Prime Minister, it is “functionally independent” and does not require the Prime Minister’s concurrence to conduct its investigations.
“In this case, it kept the Prime Minister informed and sought his concurrence to initiate formal investigations of Minister Iswaran because the investigations concerned a Cabinet minister,” he said.
Mr Chan added that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong concurred within a day of receiving CPIB’s report.
He also said that under the Constitution, if the Prime Minister refuses to give his consent, the director of CPIB can go directly to the President for her or her concurrence to proceed with a CPIB investigation.
However, he noted that there has never been a prime minister who has impeded CPIB’s work.
Mr Chan added that there are also Constitutional safeguards for the appointment or removal of the director of CPIB, which require the concurrence of the President.
Addressing a question by Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP- Chua Chu Kang) on whether there will be a review of the Code of Conduct for ministers, Mr Chan said that the government will continue its regular reviews and updates while taking into account evolving circumstances and needs.
In response to questions relating to the Public Service’s Code of Conduct and avenues for public officers to report wrongdoing and protection of whistle-blowers, Mr Chan said that the Code sets out the principles and rules that public officers must abide by.
"It is periodically refreshed to ensure that the integrity and high standards of the Public Service are upheld," he said.
In the course of their work, public officers may come across different requests, be it from colleagues, friends, members of the public, or political office holders.
"When handling these requests, officers are expected to maintain a high level of professionalism, and safeguard the confidentiality of official information, as well as the political impartiality of the Public Service," said Mr Chan.
He added that should an officer be unsure of a request because it seemed inappropriate or unrelated to official work, he should consult and seek guidance from his supervisor.
"If the request comes from his supervisor, or a more senior officer, the officer can escalate the matter appropriately through the chain of command - including directly to his permanent secretary, the head of agency, the head of civil service, or the minister in-charge of the Public Service."
This article was originally published in TODAY.