Yesterday (14 Feb), Leon Perera, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC from Workers’ Party, questioned the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance whether there are existing regulations on the practice of ‘overboarding’ in Singapore, where individuals hold more board directorships than they can responsibly handle.
Answering on behalf of Mr Lawrence Wong, Senior Minister of State for Finance Chee Hong Tat defended that the practice of individuals holding more board directorships than they can reasonably handle as it is “not prevalent” in Singapore.
While the Companies Act does not limit the number of directorships that an individual may hold for Singapore-incorporated companies, he stressed that Singapore-incorporated companies are subjected to additional requirements relating to board appointments, given the public interest involved.
“All directors, regardless of the number of directorship held, are required to discharge their duties responsibly, and with honesty and reasonable diligence. Those who failed to do so can face enforcement action, including disqualification and debarment, ” Mr Chee said.
PAP MP Tin Pei Ling’s appointment in Grab company came under scrutiny by public
However, the recent appointment of MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling as Grab company director of public affairs and policy in Singapore came under criticism over the possible conflicts of interest arising from her public duties as an MP and her private job at Grab.
Had it not been for her appearance at the Chinese New Year celebration with Grab’s delivery partners, no one would have realised her appointment in the listed company.
Prior to Ms Tin’s 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.
Despite the concerns expressed by the public over possible conflict of interest, Ms Tin dismissed accusations of conflict of interest related to her appointment with Grab, stating that she would always be “transparent and above board” in her various capacities.
However, Grab said last Friday (10 Feb) that it understands that Ms Tin’s recent appointment at Grab has generated significant discourse, and 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.
It was also then that PAP revealed that it had given the go-ahead for Ms Tin to assume the position without understanding the job scope of her position as the Director of Public Affairs and Policy.
Several PAP MPs served as CEOs of Business China
Before her appointment at Grab, Ms Tin was the Chief Executive Officer of Business China, a non-profit organization registered in Singapore spearheaded by the Singapore government and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
A recent post on Reddit raised questions about the NPO and the salary she supposedly receives as CEO.
A check on its official website and annual reports show that Ms Tin is its fifth CEO. She was appointed on 21 May 2018, succeeding Ms Sun Xueling, who was being appointed Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development at the time.
Business China was officially launched on 19 November 2007, by former Prime Minister late Lee Kuan Yew and then-China Premier Wen Jia Bao.
The entity aims to “harnesses the support of public sector and private enterprises” to cultivate Singapore-China-savvy talents, “strengthen Singapore-China networks”, and to “grow the global connectivity of Singapore”.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is currently also the patron for the organisation, and the Board of Directors is chaired by Mr Lee Yi Shyan, former Senior Minister of State.
Its board of members consist of individuals such as
- Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, and Manpower
- Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport
- Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Ministry of National Development, Deputy Government Whip
- Mr Png Cheong Boon, CEO Enterprise Singapore (Statutory board under Ministry of Trade and Industry)
- Mr Anthony Tan, Managing Director, MOH Holdings
- Mr Zhong Sheng Jian, Chairman & CEO of Yanlord Land Group Limited, a developer focusing on developing high-end fully-fitted residential, commercial and integrated property projects in China, Singapore and Hong Kong.
- Ms Lee Huay Leng, Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese Media Group of SPH Media
Its advisors consist of PAP ministers:
- Mr Lawrence Wong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance
- Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education
- Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Health
- Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment
Mr Ho Chee Hin was recently appointed as CEO of Business China on 1 January 2023, taking over Ms Tin’s role who remains a board member of the organization.
In 2011, Low Yenling was also appointed as CEO of Business China when she was an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC at the time.
Before Ms Low, the CEO position was held by Mrs Josephine Teo, who served as a PAP MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC from 2006 to June 2020. She relinquished her position after being appointed as Minister of State for Finance and Transport in May 2011.
The founding CEO of Business China was Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong, who was MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC at the time.
Between 2013 and 2015, Ms Veronica Xiong was appointed General Manager of the company with no CEO in place.
|Name||Term of appointment|
|Sam Tan Chin Siong||2007- Jul 2009|
|Josephine Teo||Jul 2009 to May 2011|
|Low Yen Ling||Jun 2011 – Sep 2013|
|Sun Xueling||Nov 2015-May 2019|
|Tin Pei Ling||May 2018 to Jan 2023|
Business China’s CEO presumably paid S$200,000 to S$300,000 annually
“While Business China claims to be a ‘non-profit entity’, a check of the organization’s 2021 financial statement reveals that ‘key management personnel’, including the CEO, are presumably paid in the range of S$200,000 to S$300,000 annually, which may or may not include staff benefits. The 2021 annual report showed that staff benefits amounted to S$1.1 million.
This, of course, is on top of their salary of S$192,000 as MPs and any political appointments they may have.
If we take Business China’s 2014 Financial Report as an example, the total compensation paid to key management personnel was S$657,914 in 2013.
The total compensation was reduced to S$433,645, possibly due to Ms Low Yenling’s resignation as CEO in October 2013.
Although the report did not disclose the Business China CEO’s salary per annum specifically, it is presumed that Ms Low could have been paid approximately S$224,000 of remuneration during the financial year of 2013 if we subtract 2013’s total compensation of key management personnel from 2014.
Business China expenditure funded by Tote Board
The financial statement declared that Business China is a beneficiary of the Singapore Totalisator Board(Tote Board) who “provides grants to support the activities of the Company.”
Tote Board is a statutory board of the Ministry of Finance which governs Singapore Pools’ physical gambling services.
“The company recognised grant income of $1,728,842 (2020: $1,318,094) during the current financial year(2021), representing 40% of the claim for cost reimbursement in respect of 2021’s expenditure which are subject to formal approval by the Tote Board.”
The statement also mentioned that Business China has entered into a new funding agreement with Tote Board on 19 April 2022 for a period of 3 years till December 2024, where Tote Board will fund 40% of Business China’s annual operating expenditure, capped at S$5,200,000.
On its website, Tote Board states, “We want to uplift our community by giving hope to vulnerable groups and improving lives of all in Singapore. We provide funding for impactful projects that work towards achieving this vision.”
Given the above statement, how is Business China, with its objectives, an organisation that deserves to be funded by the Tote board, especially as the biggest donor,
Tin Peiling’s husband is member of Tote Board
In addition, Ms Tin’s husband, Mr Ng How Yue, is also listed as a member of the Tote Board. As Mr Ng was appointed to the Tote Board in 2019, after Ms Tin was appointed CEO of Business China in 2018, one cannot allege that her appointment was due to his position at Tote Board.
He currently serves as the Permanent Secretary (Health Development) for the Ministry of Health. Previously, Mr Ng had also served was served as Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister in 2008.
Given these appointments, it is not surprising that some Singaporeans may question the potential conflicts of interest involved, as political leaders within the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) are already tasked with multiple roles while still serving their constituents.
It is also worth considering why a bilateral relationship-building entity such as Business China is operating under a non-profit organization, headed by individuals who hold government positions, has board members who are ministers and funded by the Tote Board, which is supposed to fund charities?