Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing confirmed that the Government is aware of the relationship between Singapore’s new Auditor-General Goh Soon Poh and her spouse, Senior Minister of State Heng Chee How, but asserted that there is no conflict of interest since Ms Goh is not a political office holder.
56-year-old Ms Goh was appointed as Auditor-General on 8 Feb this year and leads the Auditor-General Office, which audits government ministries, organs of state, statutory boards and reports its findings through an annual report.
Mr Chan said that there is no conflict of interest at hand due to the relationship between Ms Goh and Mr Heng, in response to a question posed in parliament by Workers’ Party (WP) chairman, Sylvia Lim. Ms Lim had asked:
“I do not know the appointee personally, and I have no reason to doubt her integrity. Indeed, I am prepared to assume that she would do her best to do her work honourably.
“However, can the Prime Minister confirm that the current appointee is the spouse of a Senior Minister of State, and if this is so, did the Prime Minister consider how appointing the spouse of a Senior Minister of State would affect the public perception of the independence of the AGO?”
Mr Chan replied: “You asked if we are aware that Ms Goh Soon Poh, the new Auditor-General, is the wife of Senior Minister of State Mr Heng Chee How. Yes, we are aware.”
On the process of how Ms Goh was selected, he added:“The President will consult the counsel of presidential advisers, which provides an additional level of scrutiny and advice.”
The Minister elaborated on Ms Goh’s qualifications for the role and noted that she “has more than 30 years of public sector experience, working in various government ministries” and that she “will be familiar with governance matters related to finance, procurement, and human resources”.
Mr Chan asserted that “the audit process generally does not involve political office holders”, and that “there is no conflict of interest generally between AGO and the ministries it audits”.
He concluded: “Where there is a conflict of interest, there are specific processes to manage this, just as in any professional organisation.”