Sunday, 24 September 2023

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Four Singapore ministers to address Parliament on Ridout Road rental saga

SINGAPORE — In an upcoming Parliament session scheduled for Monday, four top ministers, including Mr K. Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, are set to deliver joint ministerial statements regarding the rental of two bungalows on Ridout Road.

This follows the release of reports by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), and Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Mr Teo Chee Hean, which cleared both ministers of any corruption or criminal wrongdoing in the rental process of these state properties—just days before the parliamentary sitting next week.

SM Teo, who will talk about the review of the rentals for 26 and 31 Ridout Road, will be joining them. Alongside him, the Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong, will deliver insights on the rental of state properties.

Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan will also deliver separate statements during the session.

The release of the CPIB report, ordered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 17 May, was unannounced till Wednesday, while the review headed by SM Teo was publicly announced on 23 May.

It should be noted that SM Teo who conducted the review, had been the senior Cabinet minister whom Mr Shanmugam notified of his rental of the black-and-white bungalows in 2018.

In the course of the session, the ministers will address 23 questions which include the following questions raised by Members of Parliament:

  1. Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC) questioned the circumstances that led to the properties being rented out to the ministers, and how the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) marketed these two properties.
  2. Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) sought information about the steps taken to market, tenant, and renew the tenancies of 26 and 31 Ridout Road, and the measures in place to ensure equal opportunities for all bidders.
  3. Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) inquired about SLA’s standard tenancy procedures, whether they were followed, and what the rental rates for the properties are.
  4. Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked about the total number of such properties in Singapore, whether the rental rate is benchmarked against the private residential market, and if SLA maintains a transparent process to list these properties available for rental.
  5. Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh asked for assurances that both ministers did not receive any privileged information about their leases, and the guide rent set by SLA for the properties when they were leased.
  6. Mr Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) asked if there are plans to redevelop land occupied by black-and-white colonial bungalows for more productive uses, and if the bidding process of these bungalows is audited by the Auditor-General’s Office annually.
  7. Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai questioned why SM Teo was chosen to review the ministers’ tenancy instead of an independent branch of government like a Supreme Court Judge.
  8. Fellow NCMP Hazel Poa asked why the rental bid for 26 Ridout Road was made by an agent, whether SLA knew that the Minister for Law was the principal behind the bid, and how and when SLA came to know of this.

Members of the public are waiting with bated breath for the upcoming Parliament session. They hope to gain comprehensive insights into the questions filed by the MPs and seek answers to any questions that remain unanswered or have arisen from the report’s revelations.

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