Apart from the obvious problems caused by the recent SingHealth cyber security breach such as the strength of the systems that we have in place and whether or not we are as robust as claimed, the security outage has shed some light on the relationships between our government linked companies (GLCs) and the ruling PAP government.
Given the intertwining of overlapping relationships between the two, to what extent is there no conflict of interest? Have the needs of the PAP been prioritised over those of state whether unwittingly or otherwise?
For a small country, Singapore seems to have a disproportionate number of GLCs. To be honest, I have completely lost track of how many there are. Arguably, is it possible that the GLCs could have been used to control the commercial interests of Singapore in a way that gives the government control over the commercial developments and also the dispensation of commercial information in Singapore?
GLCs depend heavily on support from Temasek Holdings. As we are all aware, Temasek Holdings (Temasek) is the investment arm of the Singapore government. While it is incorporated as a private company, it is unmistakably synonymous with the PAP government – its single shareholder is the Ministry of Finance (MoF). To what extent has Temasek propped up the performances of lacklustre GLCs? To what extent is the MoF (run by public funds) complicit in this? And if that is the case, the big question is why?
Looking at the GLC network, it would seem like they have a finger in every pie – i.e. in almost every sector and industry. While it may have first been conceptualised to develop the economy of Singapore in its early days, has it now outlived its usefulness and become a tool of control?
The data breach at SingHealth and the handling of it points at the possibility of GLCs being used as a way to limit accountability under the guise of legitimacy. Let’s look at the four member Committee of Inquiry (COI) convened to investigate the data breach. Each member appears to be linked to a GLC in one way or other.
Given that SingHealth is held by MOH Holdings Ltd (which is a GLC), can questions of independence in the COI be raised? Not to mention, one of the committee members, T. K. Udairam, is a director of Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) which is the contractor in charge of SingHealth’s database.
On paper, it is all above board with each company incorporated as a private entity but if you look deeper, you will see that all these companies are related. Arguably, this incestuous nature of the GLCs and how they interlink and “monitor” each other could lead to potential cover-ups.
What about the recent software glitch concerning medicine dosage labels by IHiS, a company held by MOH Holdings Ltd which a we have earlier established is a GLC? Will the Ministry of Health be counted on to adequately investigate this given that for all intents and purposes, it has control over IHiS?
The problem with all these inter connecting relationships is that no one is independent enough to hold another fully accountable.
Is this the system we want? Does this help the people of Singapore? Or does it help the ruling party?