CPIB didn't announce Iswaran's arrest initially as it wanted to establish more facts, hear his side: Chan Chun Sing
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 did not announce that Mr S Iswaran had been arrested because it wanted to first establish more facts of the case, Mr Chan Chun Sing said
- He added 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 with investigations because the case involved a minister
- Mr Chan also said that CPIB is functionally independent and does not need the Prime Minister’s agreement to conduct investigations
- If the Prime Minister were to the object, CPIB's director can go to the President of Singapore
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 because it wanted to first establish more facts of the case, as well as hear his side of the story, Mr Chan Chun Sing said.
Mr Chan, who is Education Minister and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, added that law enforcement agencies including CPIB usually do not disclose the names of persons who are being investigated or arrested as there are “good reasons”.
CPIB announced on July 12 that Mr Iswaran was assisting with investigations, but only announced two days later that it arrested him and Hotel Properties Limited's managing director Ong Beng Seng on July 11.
Addressing questions from several Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday (Aug 2), Mr Chan said: “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.”
This will 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.”
For the present case, however, CPIB decided to disclose on July 12 that Mr Iswaran was assisting with investigations because it involved a government minister, Mr Chan said.
PRIME MINISTER'S AGREEMENT
On CPIB's investigations, Mr Leong Mun Wai, Non-Constituency MP from Progress Singapore Party, and Workers’ Party MP Louis Chua asked whether all of its investigations require the agreement of the Prime Minister (PM) and if the bureau is obliged to seek his concurrence to open formal investigations for potential offences that it has uncovered.
To this, Mr Chan said that although the bureau reports directly to the PM, it is “functionally independent” and does not need the PM’s concurrence to conduct its investigations.
“In this case, it kept the PM 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 agreed within a day of receiving CPIB’s report.
He also said that under the Constitution, if the PM refuses to give his consent, the director of CPIB can go directly to the President for his or her concurrence to proceed with an investigation.
However, he noted that there has never been a PM 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 President's agreement.
As for what would happen should the PM and President both object to investigations carried out by CPIB, Mr Chan said that in this instance, the matter would stop there, making reference to an earlier response by Mr Lee.
Addressing a question by Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim from Chua Chu Kang Group Representation Constituency 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 to which public officers must abide.
"It is periodically refreshed to ensure that the integrity and high standards of the public service are upheld."
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," Mr Chan said.
He added that should an officer be unsure of a request because it seemed inappropriate or unrelated to official work, the officer should consult and seek guidance from his or her supervisor.
"If the request comes from the supervisor, or a more senior officer, the officer can escalate the matter appropriately through the chain of command — including directly to the permanent secretary, the head of agency, the head of civil service or the minister in-charge of the public service."