Govt must be transparent in wake of NKF scandal

22 December 2005

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In all the hand-wringing and breast-beating by the Government over the NKF issue, Singaporeans must not lose sight of one thing: Such a scandal is inevitable given the kind of secretive and non-accountable system bred by the PAP.

The Government now tries to exonerate itself by playing the innocent and gullible party duped by avaricious NKF officials. It forgets that in April 2004, Minister Khaw Boon Wan had, in reaction to public unease about the NKF, sought to appease Singaporeans by telling them that the Ministry of Finance "would have reacted many years ago” if there was any breach of rules by the NKF. He categorically endorsed the NKF’s dealings and called on the charity to "continue” to remain "transparent” in its operations.

At the same time the Second Minister for Finance, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, said that the NKF had "quite a sound record” because it spends "more than 80 percent of its funds on its beneficiaries” whom we now know are not kidney patients.

Clearly, alarm bells were raised and the Government had the power to do something but chose not to.

With the double-barreled assurance the charity went on its merry way. If Mr TT Durai had not taken out the legal suit, would the Government have bothered to look into the NKF? More important, NKF would in all likelihood continue to operate with the Government’s blessings.

The NKF fiasco is not about bad practices. It is not even about negligence on the Government’s part.

It is about greed and power. It is about the idea that the political elite must be paid top dollar - no matter how obscene those amounts are and regardless of who suffers. It is about a system engineered over the decades by the PAP that ensures that it and only it has access to public information and by fiat decides what is allowed and what is not.

It is about what a "democratic society, based on justice and equality” should not be.

  • Singaporeans must note that the NKF is not an aberration of the PAP system. It is, instead, a product of it. To ensure that there is transparency and that Singaporeans are kept informed of matters directly affecting them and their future, the Government must:
  • disclose the breakdown of the cost of building HDB flats and the profits HDB makes,
  • reveal where and how GIC uses our savings,
  • disclose the salaries of the top executives of Temasek Holdings and other GLCs,
  • declare the assets and incomes of its Ministers
  • reform the election system to ensure that it is free and fair.

It goes without saying that someone must be held accountable over the whole sordid NKF affair. However, real accountability starts much higher up.

CHEE SOON JUAN
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party