On 19 September (Thursday), TOC published an article stating that the Chief Fintech Officer of Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, has been appointed as the “well-known development strategist and financial expert” for the Indian state government of Odisha.
This news came to light after Times of India reported it, and added that Mr Mohanty will enjoy the rank and status of an Indian minister.
MAS set up a new FinTech & Innovation Group (FTIG) and appointed Mohanty as its Chief Fintech Officer to head FTIG back in 2015. FTIG was setup to be responsible for regulatory policies and development strategies to facilitate the use of technology and innovation to better manage risks, enhance efficiency, and strengthen competitiveness in the financial sector. Part of his responsibilities is to ensure safety and security in the use of FinTech in Singapore.
Upon reading about Mr Mohanty’s latest job, a netizen named Jeremy Cho immediately raised the alarm of potential conflict of interest with the man wearing two hats, one in Singapore government and the other in an Indian state government.
As such, Mr Cho sent an email to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, DPM Heng Swee Keat, former Minister Lim Hng Kiang, Minister Shanmugam as well as other alternative media platforms, asking why Mr Mohanty could go work in India and still get to keep his job in MAS. He also forwarded an article with regard to Mohanty’s appointment in Odisha in his email.
On 17 September (Tuesday), Sherry Theng from MAS’ Corporate Communications Division replied to Mr Cho’s email, and he forwards a copy of the reply to TOC.
Ms Theng’s respond indirectly confirmed that Mr Mohanty has indeed been appointed as advisor to the Indian state government of Odisha. She said, “The article referred to in your email incorrectly describes that nature of Mr Sopnendu Mohanty’s engagement with the Odisha Government in India. He is not appointed as a Minister of State and is not part of the Odisha Government.”
Ms Theng further defended Mohanty’s appointment saying that he agreed to be state advisor to Odisha Government in “his personal capacity”. He also won’t “draw any compensation” and there is no conflict of interests.
In his counter argument, Mr Cho replied and copied to TOC, saying that it’s disappointing to see MAS treating Mohanty case as a small matter. He pointed to the Times of India article indicating that Mohanty will “enjoy the rank and status of a minister of state”.
“What does Mr Mohanty ‘enjoy’? How is that not a conflict of interests?” asked Jeremy.
“He is advising a foreign government who is according him elevated status. That is gratification, even if it isn’t monetary. Is he going to account for every meals, car rides and gifts he get in his capacity? And he is such a senior figure in MAS, how sure are you he is not sharing (Singapore) state secrets?” Jeremy enquired further.
“And what do you mean in his personal capacity? He is a full time employee of MAS. Where does he have (the) free time to advise a foreign government? Does he take leaves to do this ‘personal undertaking’. Does he travel on MAS expense? Does he do it all exclusively on weekends? You stated his job is to support Singapore’s industry not India’s. So why was he allowed to undertake this role?”
After this article was published on TOC, a netizen shared it on the Hardwarezone forum which garnered a lot discussion.
However, on Friday (20 September), the thread got deleted, which sparked more conversations among netizens. Many of them asked why was the thread deleted in the first place and requested the moderators of the forum to provide a reason for it. Hardwarezone is owned by the Singapore Press Holdings.
User called uselessbum said that without providing the reason for deleting the tread, the “default assumption is that it is political pressure due to the nature of the topic”.
Others said that under PM Lee’s leadership, the act of removing a thread on HardwareZone’s forum is definitely possible.
A few noted that this problem can be solved by hiring a Singaporean to be the Chief Fintech Officer, and not a foreigner.