SINGAPORE – Football match fixing. “Coffee money” for advance notice of site inspections. Kickbacks for orders placed with a supplier.
Many people are heedless of the corruption that exists in squeaky clean Singapore.
Such a lack of awareness among the young, especially, has prompted Singapore’s graft busters to produce an electronic book, to make them aware of graft and its pitfalls.
The e-book is catered specifically to those aged between 13 and 19. Corruption Casebook – Stories From Under The Table is available for download on the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s (CPIB) website.
It comes after a Republic Polytechnic survey this year showed only 34 per cent, in a poll of about 1,000 people aged between 15 and 25, had come across the topic of corruption in school.
Close to three-quarters of them, or about 72 per cent, were also not aware of the existence of the CPIB, which was formed in 1952 and now reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Ms Clare Tan, the CPIB’s senior deputy director for planning, research and corporate relations, said the lack of visible corruption in Singapore today means young people are now aware of the harm bribes can cause.
“Singapore is in this state where (it seems) we are clean and incorruptible and there’s zero tolerance, but actually then (young people) may become complacent because they live in an era where everything is nice so you don’t really see corruption.
“There is corruption, it’s just that they don’t see it.”
The cases range from the $1 bribe case, in which two men were charged for regularly accepting $1 bribes from truck drivers in exchange for not delaying the loading and unloading of vehicles, to football match fixing cases.
While the cases may not be as visible, the consequences of the bribes can directly impact people.
For instance, bribes paid for leniency when checking for mosquito breeding sites are especially insidious in a year which has seen the dengue death toll hit a record high of 28 amid Singapore’s largest outbreak.
In fact, the bureau already has plans for a second book, which will challenge the notion that corruption is a “victimless act”, said Ms Tan.
In producing the first book, the bureau consulted a group of students from St Joseph’s Institution to find out which cases would best appeal to the target audience.
It also engaged Mr Melvinderpal Singh, a copy editor with The Straits Times to write the book.
He said he was motivated to get involved after realising his three sons – aged 15 to 19 – did not know much about the efforts of those who made Singapore the honest and transparent country it is today.
“They knew little of Singapore’s history and the work, often behind the scenes, of our soldiers, cops and other law enforcement officers,” said Mr Singh, 53.
He added: “In teaching my boys about the dangers of drugs – no such things as soft drugs – and corruption – yes, even $1 is corruption – I realised my boys may not be the exception. So when the idea for an anti-corruption book for young people was mooted, I jumped at the chance to contribute.”
The e-book features 16 curated cases of corruption, split up into six chapters that demonstrate how corruption affects areas such as national security, public health, and even the integrity of the sporting world.
It concludes: “While the impact of a bribe has direct bearing on the corrupt individuals and the reputation of the organisations implicated, it goes beyond that. There is an indirect impact on public funds, economic growth, quality of infrastructure and public services.
“CPIB may be the graft-busters but we all play a role in ensuring corruption is never allowed to sink its roots in Singapore. To fight this enemy, we need to first recognise it.”
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