The parliamentary sitting on Jul. 3, 2023, saw Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, Ministers Edwin Tong, Vivian Balakrishnan and K Shanmugam giving ministerial statements concerning the rental of Ridout Road bungalows by the latter two.
If you do not know what Ridout Road is or didn’t keep up with what’s happening, you can read the other tl;dr first.
For this edition, we cover some of the questions from various Members of Parliament, both PAP and Opposition, and how the ministers answered them, as well as some highlights of the clarifications.
The (shortened) questions and their (tl;dr) answers
Q: Was there any corruption, criminal wrongdoing or unethical behaviour involved in the two Ministers’ tenancies at Ridout Road from SLA?
The number 1 question on the list. The short answer is no.
For the long answer, please read Teo’s response here:
Q: Under what circumstances did the two Ministers rent the properties?
Shanmugam contacted a property agent to rent the property, which had been vacant without attracting bids for more than four years.
Vivian’s wife came across a lease sign at 31 Ridout Road property and contacted a property agent to negotiate the rent.
Q: Why did they rent the property in the first place?
Vivian said he rented the place to keep his whole family together.
Shanmugam said it was a “personal decision”, which he elaborated at length here:
He also talked about his road to politics here:
Q: Was there any conflict of interest in renting the two properties? Was Shanmugam involved in his official capacity as Law Minister in decisions relating to the rental of the Ridout properties?
No, and no. Long answer here:
Q: How will the Government assure the public that the ministers did not receive and make use of any privileged information before renting the properties?
Teo answered the question during his ministerial statement,
“CPIB found no preferential treatment given to the Ministers or their spouses, and no disclosure of privileged information in the process of the rental transactions.”
Worker’s Party chief Pritam Singh, also the Leader of the Opposition, raised the question again after the statement during the time for clarification.
The short answer is the same. You can read the full exchange here:
Q: Are there any rules, conventions or policies to ensure that Cabinet Ministers do not take advantage of privileged information they received regarding the lease of Government properties?
Q: What are the current rules and processes for Cabinet Ministers to declare conflicts of interest, and are there any plans to strengthen such rules and processes?
For both questions, Teo answered that ministers are bound by a Code of Conduct, which had been in place since 1954 and updated in 2005.
Teo added that public officers follow the same rules, and the Public Service Division (PSD) will implement new rules, such as declaring before they can rent government properties managed by their agencies.
Q: How does SLA ensure that the process of renting properties it manages is fair?
The chief executive of SLA declared on Mar. 29 2018, to the then-permanent secretary of the Ministry of Law that the rental transaction was done without any conflict of interest.
The former assured that the proposed rental was set according to the market rate with an assessment done by SLA valuers independently of the SLA leasing offices.
No preferential treatment was given during the rental transaction, and all prospects and tenants were treated equally.
@mothershipsg The SLA Valuer only discovered that Minister Shanmugam was the tenant after seeing media reports on the matter #sgnews #tiktoksg #ridoutroad #parliamentsg ♬ original sound – Mothership.sg
Q: What did PM Lee have to say about all these?
PM Lee said that Ministers Shanmugam and Vivian retain his full confidence and have done nothing wrong in the Ridout Road rental matter.
Importantly, he also said that matters of ethics and standards of propriety are the PM’s responsibility.
“I have to set the standards of what is ethical, what is proper. I cannot outsource them, for example, to appoint an ethics advisor to tell me what is proper or not proper,” PM Lee said.
Q: What are the main takeaways for PAP and the government?
Teo said that he was glad that all the parliamentarians “agreed to focus on the facts and the truths, not just on wild allegations or rumours or perceptions”.
He stressed that this was important so that the government could build a system with a strong foundation which would help to bring in good people to continue to serve in the government to take Singapore further forward.
Teo summarised it here:
Q: Did PSP’s Leong Mun Wai ask anything?
Q: By the way, how many trees were removed?
42 trees with more than 1 metre girth were removed with NPark’s approval. One tree fell by itself due to bad weather.
Q: On the rumours that Shanmugam’s son…
Or you can hear it from himself here:
@mothershipsgK Shanmugam confronts allegations about his son’s involvement in Ridout Road renovations and contracts with SLA, calling for his family to be left out of political discourse #tiktoksg #sgnews #parliament♬ original sound – Mothership.sg
You might like:
Top image via MCI.