Govt tightening rules on civil servants’ visits to casinos
SINGAPORE — The Government is tightening rules governing public servants’ visits to casinos, including getting those who frequent the gaming tables to declare how often they make such trips, or if they buy annual visit passes, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament yesterday.
The moves are part of the Public Service Division’s (PSD) efforts to strengthen safeguards and the details of implementation are being worked out, said Mr Teo, who did not elaborate on the threshold for frequency of casino visits that would warrant a declaration.
More stringent regulations are being studied for officers “occupying positions that expose them either to the risk of being suborned and exploited, or to the temptation of misusing their positions to feed a gambling habit”, he added.
The PSD said last month that public servants could face tighter rules on casino visits, following the discovery last September that a senior anti-graft officer had allegedly gambled away hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ money at a casino here.
The latest in a string of high profile transgressions by high ranking public officers, the case has again put the Public Service under the spotlight — along with the latest report by the Auditor-General’s Office. The report, which was published last month, found that procurement irregularities continued to plague public agencies.
Peppered by questions from Members of Parliament on the integrity of the Public Service and what steps are being taken to restore confidence in public institutions as well as strengthen procurement practices and procedures, Mr Teo, who is also the Minister in charge of the Civil Service, and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam spent nearly an hour addressing the concerns.
The Ministry of Finance is responsible for Government procurement policies and rules. Mr Tharman, who also helms the ministry, told the House that the Government is looking at the possibility of tightening approval processes for related-party transactions — in addition to existing requirements that no special consideration be accorded to related-party bids — after the Auditor-General found a procurement lapse in this area by a statutory board in his latest report.
Last month, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) Assistant Director Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong was charged with misappropriating S$1.76 million of public funds which were meant for buying goods and services required by his department. He allegedly gambled S$241,000 away at the Marina Bay Sands casino.
Last week, it was announced that CPIB director Eric Tan would be replaced when his term ends on Sept 30 — after supervisory lapses were found to have occurred under him and his predecessor Soh Kee Kean that led to the loss of public funds.
In response to Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang who asked why Mr Tan was replaced, Mr Teo said an independent review panel found that processes in CPIB had been circumvented, resulting in loss of funds from 2008.