The above-featured photo taken by The Middle Ground on the nomination day, 27 April 2016, shows enthusiastic supporters of the People’s Action Party (PAP) along with some Members of Parliament and Ministers at the nomination centre, showing support to their party candidate, Mr Murali Pillai in the Bukit Batok SMC By-Election.
There is definitely no issue with Members of Parliment from neighbouring wards dropping over to show their support so long their residents do not think their MPs are slacking on their job.
However, for the two ministers, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Ms Grace Fu who are present at the scene, that is a different issue. Because apart from being MPs of their constituency, the two are being paid as ministers of the country and therefore in their course of work, should be non-partisan.
A quick look at the gazette did not show leave approved for Mr Tharman and Ms Fu on 27 April. The last few leave approvals were dated on 22 April and include the backdated approval for Mr Tharman’s leave on 7 April to 17 April.
Due to the lack of information on the gazette, TOC has written to Mr Tharman and Ms Fu on the morning of 28 April, to ask if they have applied for leave to turn up at the nomination centre and support their party’s candidate. But so far, no reply from either of the two ministers yet.
So the question is, if Mr Tharman and Ms Fu did not apply for leave, that would be making use of their working hours as ministers for partisan activities.
An entry minister earns about 55,000 per month (not including bonuses and etc). The civil service works on a 42 hour work week, therefore, we can say such a minister would earn about $327 per hour. If the two ministers rush back to their workplace by 3pm, they would have each used up 6 hours of their workday, equating to at least $1,962 dollars of taxpayers money on partisan activity.
The reason of noting this, especially in this case of the by-election, is because the running candidate for the Singapore Democratic Party, Dr Chee Soon Juan was fired from his job by his department head at the National University of Singapore in 1993. He was accused of using Singapore $226 from its research grant to send his wife’s academic papers by courier service to a U.S. university. The department head was a PAP Member of Parliament. Dr Chee had since denied the charges, asserting his firing was politically motivated.
TOC will update this post when the two ministers decide to answer the question of their leave application.