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1 Curbing Corruption in Singapore: Lessons for Thailand Jon S.T. Quah, Ph.D. Anti-Corruption Expert Singapore Website:

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Presentation on theme: "1 Curbing Corruption in Singapore: Lessons for Thailand Jon S.T. Quah, Ph.D. Anti-Corruption Expert Singapore Website:"— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Curbing Corruption in Singapore: Lessons for Thailand Jon S.T. Quah, Ph.D. Anti-Corruption Expert Singapore Website: Presentation to Thai Civil Servants attending the World Bank’s Workshop on “Capacity Enhancement Program for Controlling Corruption and Improving Governance” in Washington, D.C., September 8, 2008

2 2 Purpose of Presentation 1.To explain how Singapore has managed to curb corruption during the past 48 years 2. To identify the lessons which Thailand can learn from Singapore’s experience

3 3 Why was corruption a serious problem in Singapore during the British colonial period? 1. The British colonial government lacked the political will to curb corruption.  Corruption was made illegal in 1871 when the Penal Code was enacted.  The British colonial government ignored findings of 1879 and 1886 Commissions of Inquiry that police corruption was a serious problem in Singapore.  The first anti-corruption law, the Prevention of Corruption Ordinance (POCO), was enacted in December 1937, 66 years later.

4 4 2. The British colonial government made two policy mistakes.  In spite of the prevalence of police corruption, the British authorities formed the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) within the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the Singapore Police Force to combat corruption in  The folly of this decision was made apparent in October 1951 when it was discovered that senior police officers and detectives were involved in the robbery of 1,800 pounds of opium.  First mistake: Making the ACB an anti-corruption agency when the police were corrupt and not giving it adequate resources with only 17 personnel.

5 5  Police involvement in the 1951 Opium Hijacking scandal led to the establishment of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) as an agency independent of the police in October  Having rectified its earlier mistake, the British colonial government made the second mistake of not allocating adequate resources and legal powers to the CPIB, which had only five staff members when it was formed and no legal powers. 3.Low salaries of civil servants and inflation especially during the Japanese Occupation ( ) made corruption a way of life in Singapore.

6 6 Why has the PAP government succeeded in curbing corruption in Singapore? 1.The People’s Action Party (PAP) government is committed to curbing corruption in Singapore. It demonstrated its political will by enacting the Prevention of Corruption Act (POCA) which replaced the ineffective POCO in June It learnt from the mistakes of the British colonial government and strengthened the CPIB by giving it adequate personnel, funding and legal powers. 3. It retained the tradition of meritocracy inherited from the British by relying on the Public Service Commission to ensure that recruitment and promotion in the civil service is based on merit.

7 7 4. It has reduced red tape in the Civil Service to reduce opportunities for corruption through these measures:  streamlining cumbersome administrative measures;  CPIB reviews procedures and practices in those public agencies where corruption has occurred and makes recommendations to remove the “loopholes and vulnerabilities”;  Service Improvement Unit formed in April 1991 to remove unnecessary regulations and appointing 93 Quality Service Managers to solve service problems;  Cut Red Tape Movement was initiated as part of PS21 to remove unnecessary rules in public agencies.

8 8 Table Rankings on Ease of Doing Business in 24 Asian Countries Economy______Rank__ Singapore 1 Hong Kong SAR 4 Japan 12 Thailand 15 Malaysia 24 South Korea 30 Taiwan 50 Mongolia 52 Maldives 60 Pakistan 76 Brunei 78 China 83 __Economy_____ Rank__ Papua New Guinea 84 Vietnam 91 Sri Lanka 101 Bangladesh 107 Nepal 111 Bhutan 119 India 120 Indonesia 123 Philippines 133 Cambodia 145 Afghanistan 159 Lao PDR 164 Source: DB08_Full_Report.pdf

9 9 5. Reliance on e-governance to improve transparency and reduce opportunities for corruption by simpli- fying the procedures for obtaining business permits  The On-line Applications System for Integrated Services (OASIS) was launched in 2004 to enable the public to apply, renew or terminate 85 types of licences on-line.  To reduce the opportunities for corruption and improve efficiency and transparency in procurement, the on-line procurement portal known as GeBiz was introduced to enable government procurement to be done through the Internet. The GeBiz’s website is at

10 10 6. The CPIB has enforced the POCA impartially and anyone found guilty of a corrupt offence is punished according to the law, regardless of his or her status or position. CPIB has investigated all allegations of corruption against political leaders and senior civil servants in Singapore. The PAP leaders investigated by the CPIB were:  Minister for National Development, Tan Kia Gan (no evidence but stripped of all public positions)  Minister of State, Wee Toon Boon (4.5 years jail)  Phey Yew Kok, MP & trade union leader (escaped)  Minister for National Development, Teh Cheang Wan (committed suicide)

11 11 7. Salaries for ministers and civil servants were raised in Singapore from 1972 to minimize the brain drain of talented civil servants to the private sector. When the PAP government assumed office in June 1959, Singapore was a poor country with a per capita GDP of US$400. As it could not afford to increase the salaries of the civil servants, the PAP government curbed corruption by ensuring that the CPIB had enforced the POCA impartially. From 1995, public sector salaries were benchmarked against those in the private sector to retain the “best and brightest” citizens in government and the civil service.

12 12 What lessons can Thailand learn from Singapore’s Experience in curbing Corruption? Table 2. Contextual Differences between Singapore & Thailand AspectSingaporeThailand Land Area (sq km) ,115 Population4,588,60065,280,000 GDP per capita US$35,163US$3, CPI Score X 726 X 14 X 9.4

13 13 Lesson 1. The political leaders of Thailand must be committed to curbing corruption Table 3. Personnel & Budgets of Six ACAs, 2005 ACA Personnel Budget (US$) PopulationStaff- Population Ration Per Capita Expendi- ture (US$) CCAC m488,100 1:4, ICAC1,19485 m7.0 m 1:5, CPIB827.7 m4.3 m 1:52, KICAC m47.8 m 1:233, NCCC m64.2 m 1:69, CEC30518 m m 1:729,

14 14 Table 3 shows that the NCCC’s per capita expenditure for 2005 was much lower than those of Macao’s CCAC, Hong Kong’s ICAC, and Singapore’s CPIB. Table 4. NCCC Personnel, YearNo. of Personnel

15 15 The Thai political leaders have not been committed to curbing corruption as manifested in the NCCC’s low per capita expenditure of US$0.36 and a high staff- population ratio of 1:69,481. To demonstrate their political will, the Thai political leaders must:  Increase the budget and personnel of the NCCC  Remove the function of inspection and verification of assets of public officials as this is time-consuming and labour-intensive. No case was found in Singapore’s CPIB and Hong Kong’s ICAC do not perform this function as only the assets of those officials accused of corruption are examined.  NCCC should focus on investigation and education

16 16 Lesson 2. The Thai government must initiate measures to curb police corruption. The experiences of Singapore and Hong Kong show the importance of minimizing police corruption by improving the salaries and working conditions in both police forces and punishing corrupt policemen.  The Police Department is perceived as the most corrupt public agency in Thailand (Pasuk Phong- paichit and Sungsidh Piriyarangsan, Corruption and Democracy in Thailand [1996], p. 156).  In 2001, the Thai Police received 27,000 million baht from gambling businesses for police protection of these businesses (Sangsit Phiriyarangsan, Police, Mafias and Dark Businesses [2005], p. 101).

17 17 In June 2002, Thailand’s police chief, General Sant Sarutanond admitted that Thai policemen “are undereducated and underpaid and that is the reason why they are corrupt.” Thai police officers get a starting monthly salary of 6,000 baht (US$ 260) when they need 20,000 baht (US$850) to meet their expenses in large cities. [Source: Straits Times (Singapore), June 5, 2002] The Thai government should initiate these reforms:  Promotion of police officers should be based on merit and not seniority and patronage  Improve the salaries and working conditions of the Thai Police Force  Corrupt police officers should be dismissed and honest ones should be rewarded

18 18 Lesson 3. The Thai government must minimize corruption in Thailand by tackling its major causes Causes of Corruption Anti-Corruption Strategy Low salaries of civil servants Improve civil service salaries Ample opportunities Cut red tape, monitor agencies Low probability of detection and punishment High probability of detection and punishment Leslie Palmier’s Analysis

19 19 Reasons for improving civil service salaries in Thailand  Difficult to expect civil servants to be honest if they are poorly paid  Increasing salaries curbs petty corruption but not grand corruption  Salary revision is a necessary but insufficient condition for curbing corruption if other reforms are not undertaken also  The “best and brightest” citizens will be attracted to join the Thai Civil Service if they are paid competitive salaries with the private sector

20 20 The Thai government must reduce the opportunities for corruption by cutting red tape and monitoring those agencies which are corruption-prone.  “Wet” public agencies which have large budgets and access to the public are more prone to corruption than “dry” public with smaller budgets and limited access to the public.  In Thailand, the “wet” public agencies are: Police, Customs Office, Land Department, Revenue Department, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Defence

21 21 The Thai government must make corruption a “high risk, low reward” activity by increasing the risk of detecting corrupt offences and the probability of punishing corrupt offenders.  The NCCC should relinquish the function of inspecting the assets of public officials and focus on its primary function of investigating corruption cases by expanding its investigation staff.  The media should publicize widely those politicians and senior civil servants found guilty of corruption to discourage others from being corrupt.  The NCCC and the media should initiate a national campaign to change the Thai people’s popular belief that “corruption does not hurt anyone”.

22 22 Conclusion Learning from Singapore’s experience in curbing corruption, the Thai government must:  show its political will by allocating more resources to the inadequately staffed NCCC  initiate reforms to curb police corruption  improve civil service salaries  cut red tape to reduce opportunities for corruption  enhance the risk of detecting corrupt offences and the probability of punishing corrupt offenders


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