SMRT best in communication! Keppel best in governance!

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By Augustine Low

Hard to believe but it’s factual, not fake news.

SMRT has been consistently recognised for excellence in PR and communication while Keppel Group has won one accolade after another for outstanding corporate governance and board management. They are award winners in the categories that the public would say they have fallen way short, way below acceptable standards.

SMRT’s public image has taken a major drubbing – thanks to not only frequent train breakdown but also frequent breakdown in communication, which has oftentimes been messy and uncoordinated. This has not stopped it from being feted for its communication and even customer experience. Last year was another stellar year for awards for SMRT.

This is just a sampling of multiple awards from 2017 alone:

– Best PR-led Integrated Communications

– Best Investor Relations Programme

– Best In-House PR Team of the Year

– Best Customer Experience Delivered

Keppel Group has been taking home even more accolades. Just a sampling from numerous awards garnered in 2017 alone:

– Best Managed Board

– Best Corporate Governance

– Best Governed and Most Transparent Listed Company

– Strongest Adherence to Corporate Governance

The same Keppel that has become infamous for the offshore bribery scandal which went on unchecked for years, with the current board claiming ignorance? The same Keppel that is seen as a standard bearer for governance and board management? It truly beggars belief.

But the awards are there for all to see, proudly listed on the SMRT and Keppel websites.

These awards – mostly local, a sprinkling regional – are given out by industry watchdogs, professional bodies, government agencies and the media. Makes you wonder how assessment is made, and what’s the point of it all. Some awards may be relevant, like those recognising workplace safety and innovation. But how do you judge governance and board management? Superficially through their annual reports? Based on who has the best template for awards submission?

These awards are sometimes presented at lavish ceremonies. The organisers of the awards deftly get nominees and winners to buy tables to attend the award ceremonies. Seems like nothing more than an occasion for the bigwigs to rub shoulders, pat each other on the back and feel good about themselves.

But none of it is of any benefit to the public. The money is better spent on corporate giving and social responsibility programmes.

Perhaps most cringeworthy of all: the sponsors of some awards are the very organisations which go on to be declared winners.