Keppel Corp’s bribe tarnishes Singapore’s squeaky-clean image says Hong Kong paperThe South China Morning Post or SCMP made the Keppel Corp scandal its main, breaking story today saying “Singapore Inc” will have to face tough questions in 2018 on their commitment to the Lion City’s vaunted anti-corruption ethos.
It cited several issues that have already raised worries over whether the Lion City was slipping in its intolerance for graft, saying the country’s squeaky-clean image is under fire.
“The country’s squeaky-clean image, buttressed by its high rankings in international anti-corruption indices, had already taken a beating when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in July was forced to emphatically refute allegations of nepotism and abuse of power levelled by his own siblings,” wrote SCMP.
It said the oil rig builder Keppel Corp scandal came as a shock while the public comes to grips with the graft scandal.
One political observer went as far as to describe 2017 as “annus horribilis” for the city state’s corporate sector, said SCMP.
That sentiment echoed the hand-wringing among government critics that followed last week’s announcement by US prosecutors that Keppel’s offshore and marine arm, Keppel O&M, agreed to pay a US$422 million settlement to avoid a criminal trial for bribing Brazilian officials.
SCMP said a series of corporate scandals in Singapore have put the pressure on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Keppel O&M’s US$55 million topped the nearly US$19 million in bribes that were involved at a scandal at state-linked shipbuilder Singapore Technologies Marine, making it the biggest corruption case to hit one of the so-called Singapore Inc companies linked to state sovereign wealth firm Temasek Holdings.
Local political observer Eugene Tan said the latest case raised “serious questions about the Singapore corporate sector’s commitment to anti-corruption and ethical business dealings.”
“Given the scale and the length of illicit dealings, it raises legitimate questions of corporate governance, board leadership, and stewardship,” said Tan, a law professor at the Singapore Management University.
“The scandal caps a year where Singapore’s branding, reputation, and integrity have been negatively impacted. 2017 has been Singapore’s annus horribilis.”