1 in 5 of CPIB cases involves public officers

SINGAPORE - The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) conducts an average of 39 graft probes involving public officers each year.

These make up about one in five of all CPIB cases, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

His comments came in a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO)on Wednesday, shortly after CPIB assistant director Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong was charged in court with misappropriating more than $1.7 million from the bureau, among other offences.

The case was handled by the police Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), which primarily investigates white collar crimes.

DPM Teo said that earlier this year, CAD and the anti-graft agency were asked to conduct a study of public officers they investigated for corruption and financial crimes over the last five years, "to see whether there was any change in their number or profile".

"About two-thirds of the investigations involving public officers led to prosecution or disciplinary proceedings," he added.

While DPM Teo noted that the number of cases involving public officers has remained "low and quite stable" over the last five years, Yeo's case was particularly serious because it involved a senior CPIB officer.

"Public institutions and public officers are held to the highest standards of integrity and conduct," he said.

"It is vital to have in place systems and practices to ensure integrity in the public service."

Also weighing in on the case on Wednesday was Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who said that "the allegations (against Yeo) if true, are deeply disturbing and disappointing".

"I think every time you get this, you need to deal with it decisively and firmly," he told reporters on the sidelines of this year's Singapore Law Week at the Supreme Court.

"What we need to do is always be vigilant, be on top of it, and make sure these are the exceptions and they don't become the norm."

There have been two previous cases involving errant CPIB officers in the last two decades.

In 1997, Chan Toh Kai, a senior special investigator, was jailed for a year for cheating a businessman.

In 2002, Sogamaran Gopal Ramachandran, a senior research officer, was jailed two years after he leaked information to corrupt policemen on how they were being investigated.

DPM Teo said strong measures will be taken to tighten up processes.

"PMO is examining whether any supervisory lapses may have contributed to this incident. If so, it will take action against the officers responsible."

A silver lining, however, was that many graft probes involving public officers were started after members of the public or fellow officers blew the whistle, he said.

"This suggests a strong culture in Singapore and in the public service which rejects corruption."


Additional reporting by Ian Poh


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.