SINGAPORE — Singapore’s ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), did not know the scope of Ms Tin Peiling’s appointment as Director of Public Affairs and Policy when it gave the go-ahead for her to assume the position.

This was revealed in the party’s Facebook post on Friday in response to Grab’s announcement of Ms Tin’s reappointment as a Director of Corporate Development following the public furore over the possible conflicts of interest arising from her public duties as an MP and her private job at Grab.

PAP wrote that the Macpherson Member of Parliament had informed the party about her appointment and the nature of the job in September last year.

The party noted this and did not object.

Following public comments about Ms Tin’s appointment, PAP discussed the matter with her again to understand better the scope of her duties.

“It then became clear to the Party that she would be expected to engage regularly with Government ministries and agencies on public policy issues on behalf of Grab. While she would make it clear that she was engaging in her private capacity and not as a PAP MP, there could still be challenges in carrying out these responsibilities, especially under the current circumstances.”

PAP then says that her primary duties in her new role will not involve Government relations in Singapore.

It says the party holds itself and its Members of Parliament to high standards of propriety and integrity.

“Most PAP backbench MPs have private careers. This keeps them in touch with our economy and society and enables able and committed people from many professions and walks of life to serve as MPs, raising the quality of MPs in Parliament.”

However, it is essential that MPs rigorously separate their public role as MPs from their professional and commercial interests in their private careers, states PAP.

Move for reappointment initiated by Grab

Grab in its statement released on Friday (10 Feb), said it understands that Ms Tin’s recent appointment at Grab has generated significant discourse in recent days.

The super-app company noted that “much thought and care” was given to address any potential conflict of interest that may arise when Ms Tin was hired.

“We had worked closely with her months in advance to ensure her hiring and the scope of her expected responsibilities are in line with the rules governing her duties and conduct as an MP. Pei Ling informed her party leaders who did not object to her appointment.”

It said it also established rules of engagement where Ms Tin should not be advocating for Grab’s interest in her capacity as an MP, and correspondingly, she should also not be advocating for her constituency and party in her work within Grab.

“However, the discourse has led us to pause and reflect on how we can create an environment where Pei Ling can serve effectively in both her roles as an MP as well as representing Grab We acknowledge that this is difficult if the intent behind every action or position she takes in the future is doubted or called into question.”

After a discussion with Ms Tin, Grab said it came to a mutual agreement that she will transition to a corporate development role at the company as a Director of Corporate Development.

Her duties will include realising synergies across our investments and acquisitions as well as supporting strategy development.

Grab states that Ms Tin, in her new role, will not be involved in public affairs and policy work in Singapore nor will she represent Grab in public policy discussions with Singapore government officials

“She will be expected to continue abiding by the rules of engagement we have put in place to declare and avoid any possible conflicts of interest, and operate in the same manner as other MPs holding private sector roles.”

Ms Tin did not think her appointment at Grab was an issue

Ms Tin has previously disregarded concerns over the concerns over conflict of interest and said she would continue with the appointment, saying that, “As to which capacity I represent at any time: I will be transparent and above board.”

Following her reappointment, Ms Tin posted on her Linkedin profile, saying that being the voice of her residents, finding ways to improve their lives, and serving Singapore will always, always be her top priority.

“I understand and have long come to accept the public scrutiny that comes with being an MP. But I would never want it to hinder my ability to serve my constituents well as MP, or to do my job at Grab effectively. And this would be the case if my intentions and actions in the future are always called into doubt, whether justified or not.”

According to her Linkedin profile, Ms Tin had just stepped down from her position as the chief executive officer at Business China, a Singapore non-profit organisation cultivating Singapore-China relationships and headed by PAP Ministers and MPs, after four years of service and is still listed as a board member.

Prior to her stint at Business China, she spent a year as group director of corporate strategy at Jing King Technology Group, now known as Adera Global from May 2017 to May 2018. The Singapore global company is involved in data security, artificial intelligence and automation.

Ms Tin had spent a couple of years as a full-time MP at Marine Parade GRC after she was elected to Parliament in 2011 and resigned from her job at Ernst and Young.

She currently chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Communications and Information, and is a member of the GPC for Culture, Community and Youth. These appointments, apart from her position as an elected MP, raised eyebrows as there are overlapping aspects of the duties as a Director of Public Affairs and Policy at Grab.

If not for the public outcry over the possible conflicts of interest by Ms Tin in her appointment at Grab, PAP might not have known the implications of her appointment.

Not to mention, the initiative to discuss alternative arrangements for Ms Tin’s appointment was made by Grab and not PAP or Ms Tin.

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