SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek receiving the Best Annual Report Award at the Singapore Corporate Awards Gala Dinner

You’ve heard of “fake news”, what about “fake awards”?

by Augustine Low

When the Keppel Group is held as a standard bearer for corporate governance and SMRT for customer experience, you have to scratch your head and wonder what on earth is happening.

Yes, Keppel Group has won one accolade after another for outstanding corporate governance and board management, while SMRT is recognised for excellence in customer experience, PR and communication.

The awards are there for all to see, proudly listed on the Keppel and SMRT websites.

This is just a sampling from numerous awards garnered last year alone:

  • Best Managed Board
  • Best Corporate Governance
  • Best Governed and Most Transparent Listed Company
  • Strongest Adherence to Corporate Governance

The same Keppel that has become infamous for the offshore bribery scandal which went on unchecked for years, with the board claiming ignorance?

A standard bearer for governance and board management?

Even former Attorney-General Walter Woon wrote a recent article published in The Straits Times, criticising the government for not prosecuting the Keppel management involved in a bribery case dating back to 1995.

As for SMRT, this is a fraction of the long list of awards it scooped up last year:

  • Best PR-led Integrated Communications
  • Best Investor Relations Programme
  • Best In-House PR Team of the Year
  • Best Customer Experience Delivered

The same SMRT whose public image has taken a major drubbing in recent times?

When hardly a week goes by without not only train breakdown or disruption but also breakdown or delay in communication?

These corporate awards – mostly local, a sprinkling regional – are given out by industry watchdogs, professional bodies, government agencies and the media.

Makes you wonder how assessment is made, and what’s the point of it all.

Some awards may be relevant, like those recognising workplace safety and innovation. But how do you judge governance and board management? Superficially through their annual reports? Based on who has the best template for awards submission?

These awards are often presented at lavish ceremonies. More often than not, award winners pay to attend, so organisers stand to benefit.

Spending money to pat oneself on the back for doing a great job? It gives corporate awards a bad name.