Thursday, July 21, 2005

NKF Saga III: Transparency & Accountability?

Transparency & Accountability?

Look who is talking? PAP talking about transparency and Accountability? Singaporeans didn’t even know the components of our reserves, not even professors in NUS are aware that CPF money is not managed by GIC!

Transparency and accountability should be applied to ALL entities that utilize or manage public funds, including but not restricting to charities, government, public listed companies, GLCs (Temasek Holdings), GIC etc.

This is the CRUX of the whole NKF saga but apparently the mass media is so well managed that NOT a single hint or link was mentioned in the whole period to indicate the need of transparency and accountability to all the entities mentioned above.

What happened to NKF, could and have happened to public listed companies. Could it happen to our government, GLCs and GIC? Nobody could discount such possibilities, no matter how remote they claim to be.

The crux of the matter is that there need to be good checks and balances. Minister Khaw was only half right to say that even strict rules cannot guarantee good governance, but only good heart and head will make sure of that. TT Durai is a man of good heart and head, isn’t it? He has contributed 37 years in NKF! He is so successful in marketing NKF that NKF as an independent charity organization has outdone other government controlled charities! Unfortunately, he has become the prisoner of his own success!

To “hope” for “good heart and head” to run entities that utilize public monies is just too amateurish. The only way to provide good checks and balances is to provide laws that protect and encourage whistle blowers and to put in enough independent or “opposing” force within the system. The PAP’s line of argument that by providing million dollar pay so to attract good talent and at the same time prevent them from being corrupt has been demolished totally by this NKF saga. If $600K is not enough to prevent a good man like TT Durai to fall into the traps of Moral Hazards (eg. Let NKF pay his own vehicle tax), what could convince us that a million dollar would prevent it? And TT Durai is a “good” man so to speak as he has dedicated 37 years of his life to NKF!

TT Durai’s success is just a mirror or miniature of PAP. He started off with a good heart and a strong dedication to volunteer his time and effort to build up NKF. But when success sets in, he has become the prisoner of his own success. NKF pays him the “peanuts” of $600K, justifying this using PAP’s same logic:

1) Need to pay high pay to attract talent
2) Need to pay high to get man of integrity to manage an entity with huge reserves

But apparently, this line of thinking has failed miserably. In public service both in the case of charitable organization and government, adequate checks and balances must be in place. To depend on high salary to make sure good governance is a totally flawed logic.
The checks and balances must be in the form of independent or opposing force, not merely rules and regulations that may be ignored. Guidelines could be ignored too and such happening could be unknown to the public. Only whistle blowers would blow it out to let the public knows of the flaws. In the spirit of public interests, the law must protect the whistle blowers from prosecution by the entities that have huge resources. For a government, only by voting in more opposition members, effective checks and balance could be achieved. The only way of ensuring this of happening is to change our system into proportionate representation, which will guarantee, at anytime, there will be minority or opposition representation. This is the main reason why emerging democracy like Taiwan and Hong Kong chose to have proportionate representation implemented in the political system.

Our political system has been changed so many times to ensure opposition representation will be curbed. This is unhealthy as it has robbed from the system the necessary checks and balances that are needed to maintain good governance. The threat of mismanagement is as REAL as the many recent happenings in public listed companies and NKF. From these recent scandals, it is clear that no amount of salary or perks could keep good people from turning bad.

The mass media and PAP itself has carefully avoided such a wide link of great implications to its own power base. They have talked about transparency and accountability to others, but nothing was mentioned about PAP government. Despite the fact that many in internet forums are linking this NKF saga with the possible pitfalls of a government that goes unchecked, the mass media just keep mum about this vital implications. In fact, with the recent outburst of scandals in various public listed companies, there are already many doubts arising about the standard of corporate governance in Singapore. Some are quietly worried about the implications of such scandals being replayed in a bigger scale if it so happen to a big government with great powers that go unchecked.

We must not behave like an ostrich that stick its head in the sand when something happens. The threat of Moral Hazard and corporate mismanagement is REAL and it is only a matter of time when it explodes into our faces if we continue to be complacent and accommodating to this system that discourage opposition politics. It may not happen now, maybe not in our life time but nobody could guarantee it will not happen to our future generations. It is time for us to rethink on what kind of political system we need to ensure REAL checks and balances are in place.

Goh Meng Seng


Cynical said...

The Strait Time is a bigger culprit.

I read somewhere that Minister Khaw Boon Wan mentioned last year that the Strait Time had a certain spin in their reporting of the saga. He is correct.
(I do not have any political affiliation, though. Just a loyal citizen).

They now claim that the publicity (deliberately fanned by ST) has caused many not to donate.
Remember they deliberately published certain blogs (incl one with Hokkien expletives) during that period to further fan the anxiety of donors like us.

This is the biggest bullshit by the paper which has lost so much credibility.

(and yet in hindsight if we see their coverage - knowing they themselves are a party in the case- the ST had deliberatley wanted to embarass the govt too just before the elections. In other words, they are not some innocent bystanders working in the interest of us Singaporeans).

See how they cover yr party in the elections.
Who can trust the papers anymore.

Why should a monopply paper be making so much money to fill the pockets of their execs. Their pay should be made public knowledge like our MPs and Ministers.

Anonymous said...

Past Known Humours

Durai- donate u r an idiot.

1 telephone call costs $5

1 tap costs $?

1 peanut costs $600,000 per annum

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