SINGAPORE - Corrupt civil servants in Singapore will not be able to dodge the long arm of the law, people believe. And confidence in Singapore's anti-corruption capabilities has placed the country among the top five internationally, according to a new global study.
More than seven out of 10 people polled believe that any high- ranking government official here who misuses public funds will not get away with it.
The study, released by the Washington-based World Justice Project (WJP) on Tuesday, placed Botswana, New Zealand, Norway and Hong Kong ahead of Singapore. They outpaced others like Japan and the United States.
Botswana, one of Africa's most stable countries and its longest continuous multi-party democracy, is relatively corruption-free, noted a BBC report in January.
But in two-thirds of all countries and regions polled, many were pessimistic that offenders would be held accountable.
WJP spokesman Laura Cochran said the poll showed "62 per cent of individuals worldwide believe that a government official guilty of using public money for personal benefit will go unpunished".
They believe this is so even where evidence of wrongdoing is strong and the matter is in the media.
"The survey results suggest that consequence-free corruption is a widespread, corrosive force on governments around the globe," she added.
The project polled people from 99 countries and regions, asking what would happen if a government official was caught taking public money for his own benefit, and this was made public.
The worst performers included Uzbekistan, Argentina and Pakistan, where only 3 to 17 per cent of people thought the offenders would be made accountable.
"These results suggest a global distrust in accountability systems meant to maintain ethical government. Instead citizens across regions believe governments most often begin investigations into complaints, only to let the culprit off," said the study.
Founded in 2006 by distinguished US lawyer William H. Neukom, the WJP is an independent, multi-disciplinary organisation that works to advance the rule of law around the world.
Its backers include Microsoft's Bill Gates and Canada's Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, while its board of directors includes leading Singapore lawyer Lee Suet-Fern.
MPs said the ratings that place Singapore in the top 5 per cent are a credit to sound and good governance principles here.
Said Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad: "It's not going to be easy to be 100 per cent perfect. You will find some black sheep here and there, but the key is we should not be afraid to take action against those who breach these principles."
Citing the cases of public officials who were probed last year for corruption, he said: "These are things that have to continue even if it embarrasses the Government."
The current environment makes it more difficult to get away with such offences, as there are more robust systems in place, a more educated public and social media, he added.
"But the potential danger is in the indirect forms of corruption such as intangible services, and we therefore have to be vigilant."
Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan said: "In Singapore, we take the anti-corruption laws very strictly. Regardless of who you are, if you are corrupt, the state will go after you.
"I think we should have got higher marks."
It's not going to be easy to be 100 per cent perfect. You will find some black sheep here and there, but the key is we should not be afraid to take action against those who breach these principles.
- Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad
This article was published on May 2 in The Straits Times.
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