ONGOING REVIEW OF PREVENTION OF CORRUPTION ACT 1960

Most Singaporeans agree that the unstinting efforts of CPIB in independently enforcing anti-corruption laws without fear or favour and ensuring a largely corrupt free environment in Singapore has contributed much to Singapore’s success story. In 2018, CPIB announced a review of the Prevention of Corruption Act (“PCA”) to ensure that CPIB is provided with adequate statutory levers to remain effective in its fight against corruption. I have been following these developments closely over the years. For the October sitting, I filed 2 PQs, namely (a) To seek an update of the review; and (b) asking why there is a need to retain anti-corruption provisions in the Penal Code when the PCA is the primary legislative tool. Min Chan Chun Sing replied stating that CPIB has determined that no amendments to PCA are being contemplated at this point. Min Shanmugam however acknowledged that there is merit in porting over the Penal Code provisions dealing with corruption to the PCA. Having regard to the Ministers’ answers, I intend to pursue the issue of consolidating the anti-corruption provisions in the PCA at the next COS debate in 2023. My PQs and the Ministers’ answers may be accessed below.

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Mr Murali Pillai asked the Prime Minister whether he can provide an update on the ongoing review of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1960 that was announced by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in 2018.

Mr Chan Chun Sing (for the Prime Minister): The Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) is a key instrument in our fight against corruption. We must ensure that the PCA remains effective to combat and deter corruption, and that it enables us to fulfil our international obligations. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), in close consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), has reviewed the PCA in this spirit. We would like to thank Members of the House for your suggestions relating to the review, which included those relating to corporate liability for corruption offences. CPIB took these suggestions into consideration in the review.

The review has concluded that the PCA, as it stands, provides effective deterrence and adequately empowers CPIB to carry out its duties. There is therefore no need to amend or enhance the existing provisions. Besides providing for tough enforcement action against corrupt individuals, the PCA offers sufficient basis for the prosecution of corporate bodies in Court if the facts of the case call for it. This extends to instances where corporate entities are found to be complicit in the corrupt conduct of their employees. CPIB has successfully taken corporate bodies to task in the past, and will not hesitate to do so.

The Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act complements the PCA by enabling the disgorgement of benefits obtained by a corporate body through the giving of bribes. Our legislative framework is therefore sufficiently robust to ensure that errant corporate bodies will have to bear the full brunt of the law and will not be able to enjoy any ill-gotten gains through corrupt means.

A robust anti-corruption framework goes beyond legislative instruments. The last Public Perception Survey conducted in 2020 cited strong political determination, along with effective anti-corruption law and heavy punishment, as the top three factors behind the low incidence of corruption in Singapore. Constant vigilance and a zero-tolerance attitude against corruption on the part of every Singaporean are also critical.

The corruption situation in Singapore is firmly under control and we are well-regarded internationally for our anti-corruption efforts. However, there is no room for complacency as the corruption threat is persistent and ever evolving. CPIB understands this very well. It will spare no effort not just in carrying out its work without fear or favour, but also in improving its capabilities to stay ahead of the corrupt. We must continue to support CPIB and do our part to keep corruption at bay.

UTILITY OF MAINTAINING PROVISIONS IN CHAPTER 9 OF PENAL CODE DEALING WITH CORRUPTION INVOLVING PUBLIC SERVANTS

Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Home Affairs whether there remains any utility in maintaining the provisions in Chapter 9 of the Penal Code 1871 dealing with corruption involving public servants after the enactment of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1960.

Mr K Shanmugam: While the Prevention of Corruption Act 1960 (PCA) is the primary anti-corruption legislation in Singapore, it is complemented by other laws that deal with related forms of misconduct, such as the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992; the Penal Code 1871; and the Customs Act 1960.

The offences under Sections 161 to 165 of the Penal Code deal specifically with bribery and other forms of corrupt practices involving public servants. Compared to the offences in the PCA, they are more targeted in scope toward tackling the various forms of bribery of, and the taking of bribes by, public servants. For example, Section 165 makes it an offence for a public servant to accept any thing of value, without payment or with inadequate payment, from any person with whom he is involved in an official capacity. Unlike in the PCA, there is no need to further establish that this was an inducement or reward for the public servant to act in such a manner.

Therefore, there is utility in retaining these Penal Code offences, which, together with the PCA and other related laws, provide a comprehensive set of legislative levers for corruption control.

That said, there may be utility in siting these Penal Code offences in the PCA. The Government will review this.

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Murali Pillai

Member of Parliament, Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.