Singapore firms do barely enough in governance

Singapore firms do barely enough in governance

If the governance sections in the annual reports of Singapore's listed companies create a sense of deja vu, that is because they are often very similar, a report by compliance consultancy Red Flag Group found.

"A number of companies used considerably similar wordings when describing the role and functions of their audit committees, prompting one to question whether these were merely empty statements copied from others to ensure compliance with regulations or well thought out plans for an oversight body," said the report released on monday.

Singapore's largest listed companies do barely enough to communicate and comply with governance regulations, it said.

The study looked at 100 of the largest listed companies on the Singapore Exchange, and rated them on eight criteria, including whether a code of conduct existed and was publicly available; whether a company had a chief compliance officer or similar position; whether the company had a compliance committee or equivalent group; and the level of attention paid to compliance issues in the annual report.

The study found that of the firms listed in Singapore, those headquartered domestically had better overall scores than those based elsewhere.

"The stronger positive correlation can possibly be explained by the fact that Singapore-based companies have long been accustomed to the local authorities' zero-tolerance approach towards corruption and thus have developed a comparatively more positive and proactive attitude towards compliance and anti- corruption," noted the report.

If the governance sections in the annual reports of Singapore's listed companies evoke a sense of deja vu, that's because they are often very similar, the report said.

In fact, the study found a good deal of similarity in the language used to convey governance issues such as compliance, and a narrow definition of governance in general.

Singapore companies' strongest performance came in the area of having compliance committees, most often in the form of audit committees.

Of the 100 companies in the study, 21 had scores of three or higher out of a best possible four, indicating the presence of units that dealt with compliance issues primarily or to a large extent.

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