The Government Needs to Come Clean on How and Why Contracts Were Awarded to Surbana Jurong

The posts about Surbana Jurong profiting from the explosion of Covid cases among foreign workers, for which Josephine Teo (whose husband appears to be No.2 or 3 at Surbana) must take some responsibility, have drawn an angry response from the company. Legal threats have been bandied about:

We absolutely refute the allegations and will not hesitate to take legal action against any perpetrator who continues to make scurrilous attacks against our company.

Unfortunately the PAP Government’s (or its myriad agencies, statutory boards and companies which collectively account for well over 50% of the economy) standard response when any questions are raised is to threaten legal action or to use repressive instruments like the Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to try and shut citizens up rather than providing the information that would put to rest any rumours. We saw this with the rapid barrage of POFMAs from Seat Warmer-in-Waiting Heng Swee Keat as he desperately tried to stop speculation about his master’s wife’s salary, even though she supposedly works for a private company and has nothing to do with the Government.

The standard response of the PAP to uncomfortable questions is not to shine a light on muddy waters in the interests of transparency and accountability but instead to behave as though we have no right to know about the way our elite divide up the spoils of office or how much they pay themselves out of public funds. Their attitude can be summed up as “How dare you ignorant peasants ask questions of your meritocratically selected betters! Let us get on with the tough business of governing and paying ourselves and our spouses and children salaries appropriate to our vast talents while you stick to scratching a living. And don’t you dare ask us for handouts! You must be self-reliant and resilient.”

In my last blog I said that Surbana Jurong was only 51% owned by Temasek with the remaining shareholding held by Jurong Town Corporation (JTC). That was not correct as in June 2016 Temasek acquired JTC’s shares. We need to be told the terms on which Temasek acquired JTC’s shares. Even though Temasek is a state-owned holding company (though the Government is going to some lengths to bamboozle Singaporeans into thinking that Temasek is a private company and therefore the remuneration of its CEO and other top executives is a private matter), the bonuses of its senior management, and in particular the PM’s wife, are determined by the performance of its portfolio. If JTC’s shares were transferred below market value then that would trigger a revaluation gain at Temasek which would be reflected in the performance-related bonus pool for senior executives (read more money for Ho Ching!).

Though Surbana’s board might angrily retort that there has been no profiteering from the contracts it was awarded to build (or manage the construction of) the temporary facilities at Singapore Expo (another Temasek-owned entity), this is moot unless the Government can show that the contracts were put out to open tender. Until it does so we have no way of knowing whether Surbana was the cheapest and best proposal. If it was not then Singaporeans will have been cheated and forced to pay higher costs than they need to.

When the Government owns so much of the economy and directs business to state-owned companies headed by relatives of Ministers from the PM downwards without competition, it is impossible to know whether Singaporeans are getting a good deal. However basic economics teaches us that where there is monopoly part of the excess profits will be taken in the form of decreased efficiency, featherbedding and increased costs, not least in the salaries of the top executives at those companies. By benchmarking their remuneration against their peers at other state-owned companies, they can collectively raise their pay even though it is completely unnecessary to attract and retain talent (though a glance at the CVs of many of these people suggests that their chief talent lies in being related to people in Government rather than the quality of their academic qualifications!). Even if their relatives are not beneficiaries, MInisters are happy because higher “private” (actually state-owned) sector pay boosts their remuneration via the circular mechanism set up by the ministerial pay review in 2011.

The PAP Government, which includes its vast network of agencies, statutory boards and companies, thrives on secrecy and fails basic tests of accountability and transparency. Singaporeans have no idea whether they are getting value for money and who is benefiting just as they have no idea of the size of the reserves and how the reserves will benefit them. Something as basic as how much the PM pays his wife remains a state secret. We need a Freedom of Information Act like in the US and the UK but we also need to ensure that there are enough Opposition MPs in Parliament to held the Government to account. This election will show whether Singaporeans are indeed interested in genuine reform.

 

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

* The author blogs at https://kenjeyaretnam.com/
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17 Responses to “The Government Needs to Come Clean on How and Why Contracts Were Awarded to Surbana Jurong”

  • Pap has the mandate:

    Remember, every yearly Audit on these Government agencies and linked entities failed with improper invoices. Singaporeans voted PAP and Singaporeans deserve to be slaves to PAP and their relations.

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  • Dr. Chan:

    @KJ
    Singapore is no different from a Commie state like North Korea and China. 70% likes it. So suck it up or leave.

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  • REGIME CHANGE is the solution:

    REGIME CHANGE is the only way to get the TRUTH because of the lack of openness and transparency (therefore no real accountability) in the public sector.

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  • Hopelesslyuselessgov:

    Good for you Kenneth.
    No one else but you can bring up a proper subject,

    Not even WP.

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  • trublu:

    Yes,that would be setting good example for all to uphold integrity in giving out PUBLIC PROJECTS.
    Many BUILDING CONtractors have MPs,former ministers sitting on their BODs.

    AGO SHOULD AUDIT SUCH PUBLIC TENDERS.
    I hold our govt’s integrity in high esteem but the lack of transparency naturally gives rise to questions?

    Lets try to have more transparency, its good for governance and enhances the govt’s inyegrity which our founding fathers were oroud of.

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  • WakeupSG:

    TLCs are as tricky if not more than C19 presenting itself in 3 distinct strains A, B, C going global. I understand that the Wuhan type is predominantly B, America & Australia type is A & Europe type is C!

    https://metro.co.uk/2020/04/10/coronavirus-mutated-three-distinct-strains-spread-across-world-12536852/amp/

    Temasek Holdings PL is public-owned so it operates sovereignly using public funds but the public can’t know CEO’s salary because it is state secret!

    The govt keeps a safe distance (arm’s-length) relationship with TH & does not interfere with firm’s operational decisions re CEO’s remuneration & succession!

    How will we know the SWFs are in safe hands managing public funds when the PAP govt conceals them as state secrets just like the case of keeping ourselves safe from C19 when we know its workings!

    BY DENYING PAP 2/3 MAJORITY IN PARLIAMENT AT THE COMING GE!

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  • Narcissism Sinchiapor Inc.:

    (Their attitude can be summed up as “How dare you ignorant peasants ask questions of your meritocratically selected betters! Let us get on with the tough business of governing and paying ourselves and our spouses and children salaries appropriate to our vast talents while you stick to scratching a living. And don’t you dare ask us for handouts! You must be self-reliant and resilient.”)

    We sheeples POFMA you!

    Perverted Ostentatious Freaks Manipulative Antics

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  • Sojoürner:

    Does government contracting with familiar enterprise (with well-established rules and safeguards in place), slip in some big giveaways that nobody notices, and half of Singaporean still don’t see the problem?

    LKY had nearly shaped the entirety of Singapore’s history through his force of personality. Yet, would his successors be as restrained?
    What if they were not? Does Singapore’s system have enough built-in mechanisms to get rid of corrupt, inept, or abusive leaders?

    A political system with limited free speech, limited press freedoms, and heavily dominated by a single political party lacks self-correcting mechanisms if things go wrong.

    And as sure as there are LKYs in the world, there are also Kim Jong-uns. No matter how enlightened it is, despotism is Singapore’s Achilles heel, and it’s without a doubt in my mind that they will suffer because of it. History is full of examples.

    Singapore has one of the highest debt to GDP ratios in the world. Its prosperity is a facade; nearly a third of its residents live in poverty. It’s wealth gap is among the largest anywhere. The country’s biggest businesses are real estate speculation and gambling, neither known for its virtue or transparency. Hand picked cronies now run the place, with impunity and without opposition or accountability.

    They keep wanting to put the money into the top of the financial pyramid, not into the bottom, where the poor and lowers classes are. Put it into the top, and not much happens because there aren’t enough levels to pass through. It’s like only letting your blood in your body go from your heart to your brain and back to the heart, without going to your legs, arms and torso.

    Of course, they can’t stand the idea of anyone but them getting anything, because they think they should have it all.

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  • Proud of PAP Taiwan Copy SG:

    Dear Singaporeans,
    Be very proud of PAP, ROC Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)
    is copying all our scholarly government policy.

    Read on… not for the yellow banana Ang Mo Tua Kee.
    假深化民主真箝制言論自由 (DPP using democracy to restrict freedom of speech)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdJTMpyTaN0

    Roy is in Taiwan for Poke Ass Party on 30 Oct, 31 Oct, 01 Nov… he is happy to be make use of DPP 1450 to attack SG.

    Do not trust Roy or any opposition like Kenneth.

    GE2020.PAP.Guarantee.Win.All
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Singaporeans must be Cheaper, Better, Faster.
    Workers must accept wage sacrifices to keep businesses going.

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  • Monopoly?:

    Can you, Sir, provide information on what percentage of govt budget spending from tax revenues goes to TH’s companies or “private” enterprises linked to the govt, and also a list of these companies, whether by way of contracts, investments or grants? The impression one gets is that a sovereign govt is wedded to a sovereign wealh fund in one happy union and have produced many “offsprings” that would benefit from that union.

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  • 70% deny Democracy:

    Thank God we have the 70% !
    They guaranteed the Lack of Accountability and check n balance. No opposition can check the gabrament.

    In good times , flaws are not visible.
    In crisis, all warts and anal hairs cum out.

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  • Trust only myself:

    Besides trusting myself, I trust every single word as written by KJ……

    Maybe for next and all future elections, there must be a competing proposal of how much taxpayers need to pay the new cabinet consisting of MPs, ministers and PM, just a total amount will do. If a coalition govt is formed, the average of their proposed amount will be final total.

    From now onwards we must never accept their pay to be linked to whatever top earners in whatever professions etc…
    Bonuses must be kept and all bonuses paid must be published in the media……

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  • Monopoly?:

    Govt spending/funding from tax revenues should go to companies that create jobs for Singaporeans. These companies should hire at least 80% locals. It would also be of interest to the public to know how much of the profits generated by the GLCs/TH companies go back to the state coffer in taxes, compared with the sum total paid to their top executives. The people can then judge for themselves, whether or not, tax revenues are being spent to create jobs and generate wealth for the citizens of the country and not just for those at the top.

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  • Yayacock said it takes a virus:

    WTF in the first place, how come never say so clearly?

    When people ask, as usual threaten with susu

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  • Flabbergasted:

    Keep up the good work Kenneth. More and more Singaporeans are reading your articles and from what I can gather, they fancy you in parliament. I sincerely hope that what they say is what they are going to do. That aside, me and my associates will keep batting away and trying to convert as many as possible to help to vote out the PAP. We are spreading the word of the need for more opposition in parliament so that our interests are protected. Gone are the days where absolute majority is given to the PAP. More and more Singaporeans are waking to the idea of the need for everyone to be politically aware. Failing which our next generation will not survive.

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  • NotMyProblem:

    “…. This election will show whether Singaporeans are indeed interested in genuine reform.”

    @Kenneth; in order for genuine reform to materialize, we need intelligent voters.

    In SG, we have many graduates of various kind from all over the world. We have more graduates than Malaysia by proportion. Malaysia has reformed and kick out a crook and recovery the losses of the country.

    In SG, I am sure our graduates want to know about our Reserve, GLC, GIC and CPF. Or is this only my pipe dream?

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  • AristoCATs - "State Secret":

    Go for Transparency?
    -
    No, can do !
    Everything the AristoCATs won’t reveal are – “state secret”.
    -
    Remember the Ballot Box !

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