PAP MPs to raise questions on SPH Media Trust & Keppel O&M for February Parliament sitting

Parliament will commence on Feb. 6, 2023.

Fiona Tan | January 26, 2023, 12:09 PM

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SPH Media Trust's (SMT) inflated circulation figures and Keppel Offshore and Marine (KOM) are amongst some of the topics that will be discussed in the upcoming Parliament session starting Feb. 6, 2023.

Members of Parliament (MPs) from both the People's Action Party (PAP) and Workers' Party (WP) have filed questions regarding these issues.

SMT issue to be addressed in Parliament

According to PAP's party newsletter, Petir, Darryl David, Jessica Tan and Don Wee are among some of the MPs that have filed questions on SMT.

On Jan. 9, 2023, SMT responded to an online report alleging discrepancies in its circulation figures, confirming that its daily circulation figures have been inflated by between 85,000 and 95,000 copies, or 10 to 12 per cent of the reported daily average circulation.

This revelation placed SMT under the spotlight, in part due to the government announcing in February 2022 that they will be committing up to S$900 million over a period of five years to support the new non-profit entity and its operations, after the media arm was hived off from the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

A Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) spokesperson stated on Jan. 20, 2023 that the ministry will be conducting its own review to see if the inflated circulation figures would have affected their previous decision to fund SMT, as well as the amount that the government had committed to funding.

Separately, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo, who was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, told reporters that the SMT issue "will be addressed in Parliament and in due course", Today reported.

PAP MPs' parliamentary questions

While SMT has yet to receive any of these funds, according to the MCI spokesperson, Chua Chu Kang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) MP Don Wee wants to find out whether the government will be adjusting the grant amount as the S$900 million may have been committed based on these fictitious data previously.

Similarly, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Darryl David wants to know how SMT's inflated circulation figures impact the government's commitment to fund the organisation.

He also asks the government to provide some insight on the internal report from SMT regarding their inflated circulation data.

East Coast GRC MP Jessica Tan will be asking the government about the outcome of MCI's review of its funding for SMT.

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) called for an independent inquiry into SMT's inflated circulation figures and for full disclosure of the measures that will be taken to assure good governance and control in a Facebook post on Jan. 10.

They added that its non-constituency MPs will be pursuing the issue in Parliament to "continue oversight over public expenditures".

Keppel O&M

Also to be discussed in the upcoming Parliament session is the KOM corruption scandal, where six of its ex-senior management staff members had allegedly paid bribes amounting to about US$55 million (S$73 million) to officials of Brazilian state-owned oil giant Petrobras between 2001 and 2014.

These individuals were issued stern warnings on Jan. 11, 2023, from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau following a consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC). They would not be charged or prosecuted, and thus, were not named.

KOM was also issued a conditional warning in lieu of prosecution. It has fulfilled the conditional warning's obligations and has paid a total fine of US$422 million.

MPs' parliamentary questions

Regarding the penalties doled out to KOM, PAP MP for Yio Chu Kang Single Member Constituency (SMC) Yip Hon Weng wants to know what is the government's response to concerns that the penalties have been too light, given that offenders have been jailed for much smaller sums of money.

He will also be asking the government about the measures that can be taken to improve the deterrence and prosecution of cross-boundary corruption, considering that KOM's alleged transactions were multinational.

Jurong GRC MP Tan Wu Meng wants the government to elaborate on the reasons for issuing stern warnings in lieu of prosecution, considering that the offences are punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1960, and their assessment of the damage that the KOM scandal caused to Singapore's reputation.

Bukit Batok SMC MP Murali Pillai wants to find out if anyone else, be it KOM’s parent company, one of its officers, or another person or entity, was investigated for facilitating the bribery of Petrobas officials.

If so, he wanted to know the findings of the investigation and its conclusion.

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Top image by Lee Weilin and from Keppel Corporation/YouTube.