The bribery scandal that has enveloped Keppel Offshore & Marine is another sign of a deteriorating situation involving corruption and the financial system in Singapore.
The incident involves 17 current and former Keppel employees holding senior positions within the company who had paid US$55 million in bribes over more than a decade to officials in Brazil to secure oil-rig contracts.
The shocking breath and depth of the scandal prompts the question of who else knew about the dealings but kept silent during the entire episode.
It also raises the possibility that the incident is not an isolated one and whether more such cases exist within the stable of Government-linked companies and their worldwide dealings.
The government owes it to the public to conduct an open investigation into the matter as it involves public finances.
This is not the first time that such a serious debacle has hit Singapore. In 2016, DBS (also a GLC) and other banks in Singapore were caught when money from Malaysia’s 1MDB was found to have been laundered through them.
Both the Keppel and DBS cases which happened only recently signal a deterioration in the system that governs Singapore.
Equally disturbing is the authorities’ knee-jerk denials of such problems and the continued boasts about the integrity of the system and its organisations.
In 2015 when the story surfaced that Keppel was involved in paying bribes in Brazil, the management said that, “We refute allegations made in the media reports”.
It went on to state: “We would like to emphasise that Keppel Group has a code of conduct which prohibits, among others, bribery and corruption. Our employees are required to conduct themselves with integrity, in an ethical and proper manner, and in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate, including anti-bribery laws.”
Over money laundering, Minister Mr K Shanmugam said in 2009: “We do not see ourselves as a haven for laundered money. We play an active role in the global fight against financial crimes.”
The Monetary Authority of Singapore boasted: “To protect the integrity of our financial system, our laws are rigorously enforced.”
It is clear that the government and its related entities should dispense with the bluster about how virtuous the system is and put in more effort to prevent such happenings.
It must do no less that order a full inquiry to determine how widespread the problem is within Keppel, in particular, and possibly in other GLCs, in general.