Workers' Party MPs pose questions to govt on SPH Media & Keppel Offshore & Marine

The MP's questions are due to be addressed when Parliament next convenes — Feb. 6, 2023.

Andrew Koay | January 20, 2023, 07:33 PM

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Members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition Workers' Party (WP) have posed questions to the government related to the SPH Media Trust (SMT) circulation scandal and the funding that is being provided to the media organisation.

If you need to catch up on what's been going on, we've collated everything we know here:

Parliamentary questions on SMT and Keppel Offshore and Marine

The MP's questions are due to be addressed when Parliament next convenes — Feb. 6, 2023.

According to a Jan. 20 Facebook post by the opposition party, its MPs have filed six separate parliamentary questions on the topic, including how SMT will be held accountable for its fudging of circulation figures.

The Minister for Communications and Information (MCI) Josephine Teo had previously announced that SMT would receive up to S$900 million in funding over five years from the government; WP MPs have queried if this will be impacted by recent revelations.

MCI said today that it has not disbursed any of the funds it has committed to SMT.

MCI also requested that the SMT board share the findings by the audit and risk committee and expected the board's full cooperation.

Gerald Giam, Aljunied GRC MP, also asked about the environmental impact of printing and destroying newspapers.

In addition, 10 questions have been filed in relation to Keppel Offshore and Marine's (KOM) corruption case.

They include queries on the government's decision not to prosecute six former senior management staff who were allegedly involved in giving out US$55 million (S$73 million) in bribes to secure a contract with Brazillian state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

According to CNA, the six staff were instead given stern warnings by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

Parliamentary questions about SMT

Dennis Tan, MP for Hougang SMC, filed the following questions:

  • Whether the Ministry of Communications and Information will require SMT to disclose the reasons why the inconsistencies in the daily circulation numbers took a long time to be discovered and made public, and what is being done to strengthen governance over such matters
  • How the inconsistencies will impact the government's commitment to fund SMT

Giam asked:

  • What is the total number of newspaper copies that were printed, counted, and destroyed by SMT, and its predecessor company for the entire duration of the inflation scheme
  • What the is estimated total weight of papers used, and what is the environmental impact of these actions
  • What was the source of the figures cited in Parliament on May 10, 2021, that SPH's newspapers' circulation had grown by five per cent and the Straits Times' circulation had grown by 20 per cent from 2017 to 2020
  • How much bearing did the data have on the government's decision to fund SMT
  • Whether Teo still considered the data reliable in light of SMT's admissions

He Ting Ru, MP for Sengkang GRC asked:

  • Whether the individuals involved in initiating and perpetuating the inflated circulation figures in SMT have been referred to the police for further investigations, and if so, how many were referred
  • What actions will be taken against SMT to hold it accountable for the inconsistencies in the reported daily circulation data
  • Whether there will be a review t0 the government's previous announcement that it will fund SMT and provide up to S$900 million in funding support over the next five years.

Parliamentary questions about KOM

In relation to KOM, Tan asked:

  • How did CPIB arrive at the decision to issue stern warnings to the six former management staff, given the size of the bribes (S$73 million) given to officials from Petrobras and the size of the fines KOM paid (S$557.8 million)
  • Whether a detailed account of the facts behind the bribes payment can be provided
  • Whether it is in the public interest to disclose the names of the six former management staff of KOM who were given stern warns for their roles in the bribery case

Giam asked:

  • Why the statement of facts contained in the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) concluded between KOM and the United States Department of Justice is not considered sufficient, available, and appropriate evidence for the six implicated staff to be charged with corruption in Singapore
  • How many times have CPIB reached out to witnesses overseas or sought to obtain documents overseas since the conclusion fo the DPA, when these actions took place, and what were the responses of overseas witnesses when contacted
  • Why CPIB is not naming the six former senior management staff, and whether their ages and nationalities can be revealed

He asked:

  • If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had records of many Singapore companies have been investigated and found guilty of offences under foreign legislation such as the United Kingdom's Bribery Act, and what is the breakdown for such figures

Louis Chua, Sengkang GRC MP, asked:

  • What are the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1960 that were considered for prosecution for the six individuals, and what the maximum penalty was for these offences
  • The details of how the government decided against prosecuting the 6 former staff from KOM, and if this was consistent with the government's political leadership and the culture of zero tolerance against corruption

Aljunied GRC MP Leon Perera asked:

  • Whether the decision not to prosecute the staff was a departure from the government's stated zero tolerance towards corruption, and whether the decision would have an impact on deterring Singaporeans form committing similar acts at home or abroad
  • How the decision not to prosecute might affect Singapore and Singaporean companies' reputation

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Top photo via MCI livestream, WP's Facebook page and SPH Media's website