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Is the Singapore Environment Council truly a civil society organisation?

Half of its board and advisory committee are government officials, including two current PAP MPs

In his speech at the 3rd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on 15 April, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli spoke at length about the role of civil society groups in promoting a sustainable agro-forestry sector.

He specifically also said civil society plats a critical role in “enhancing transparency and accountability of companies.”

See full text of Minister Masagos’ speech here.

One of the civil society organisations he mentioned rather specifically is the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

On its website, SEC states that it is an “independently managed, non-profit and non-government organisation.”

But upon closer observation, how non-government can it be when it has the following people on its board and advisory committee?

  • Dr Teo Ho Pin – Mayor of Northwest CDC and People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament for Bukit Panjang
  • Dr Leong Chee Chiew – Deputy CEO of NParks
  • Dalson Chung – Director of Industry Development and Promotion, National Environment Agency
  • Tan Nguan Sen – Chief Sustainability Officer, PUB
  • Lam Joon Khoi – Secretary-General of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation and former Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.
  • Ms Rahayu Mahzam, PAP Member of Parliament
  • Lee Kheng Seng – Director of 3P Network, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources

Until recently the board of the SEC also included Tan Wee Hock, who is a director at NEA and Ms Linda Dorothy de Mello, a Deputy Director of PUB.

And while Mr George Huang, who is the husband of current chairman Isabella Loh and Emeritus President of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation is no longer on the board as an advisor, the SEC has inducted Mr Lam Joon Khoi onto the Board. He is currently the secretary-general of the SMF, where Mr Huang is the Emeritus President. He was also a former Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and former CEO of the Land Transport Authority.

Interestingly, the NEA has also ‘seconded’ Mr Chong Kai Sin to the SEC to head up the Eco-Labeling and Certifications team, a role left vacant by the departure of Mr Kavickumar Muruganathan, who joined Asia Pulp and Paper. Mr Chong, as seen in this screengrab taken off the Singapore Government Directory just this morning, is currently a Senior Manager at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Department of the NEA.

SEC

Interestingly, there was no advertisement for the role vacated by Mr Kavickumar.

So is the SEC a government-appointed non-government organisation and is it truly independent?

Or is the SEC a vehicle for the Singapore government?

What’s also interesting is that the SEC, which is a registered charity and institution of public character, has removed all its financial information from its website recently. Charities are supposed to put all their financial information online for public scrutiny and accountability.

no_info

TOC has written to the Commissioner of Charity on this irregularity on 25 April but has not received any reply.

TOC also has yet to receive a reply on the investigation outcome on the alleged conflict of interest surrounding Ms Loh's position and her appointment in a research project. TOC understands that SEC was informed by the Commission of Charities (COC) to give a review to them about its alleged conflict of interest by 4 March.

Read more - Chairman of local charity, allegedly influenced staff to take research project for own financial gains

Isn’t it ironic that the organisation which demands transparency and accountability and is supposed to “enhancing transparency and accountability of companies” seems not to be practicing what it preaches.