This country-specific Q&A provides an overview to bribery and corruption laws and regulations that may occur in Singapore.
This Q&A is part of the global guide to Bribery & Corruption. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit http://www.inhouselawyer.co.uk/practice-areas/bribery-and-corruption-second-edition/
What is the legal framework (legislation/regulations) governing bribery and corruption in your jurisdiction?
The primary legislation governing bribery and corruption in Singapore is the Prevention of Corruption Act (Chapter 241) (PCA). The main offences under the PCA are set out in sections 5 and 6 which apply to both the private and public sector and prohibit both active and passive bribery.
The Penal Code (Chapter 224) contains further provisions concerning corruption. This includes offences related to bribery of domestic “public servants” under sections 161 to 165 of the Penal Code. In practice, however, the offences under the Penal Code are rarely used to prosecute corruption offences. Prosecutors usually rely on the offences under the PCA instead.
The Corruption, Drug Trafficking and other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (Cap 65A) (CDSA) is another legislation to combat corruption. The CDSA criminalises the acquiring, possessing, using, concealing and/or transferring of benefits from criminal conduct such as corruption, and allows for the confiscation of such benefits.
Which authorities have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute bribery in your jurisdiction?
In Singapore, the main authority which investigates bribery is the Corrupt Practice Investigation Bureau (CPIB). The main authority which prosecutes bribery is the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC).
How is bribery defined?
Bribery is defined widely under the PCA.
Section 5 of the PCA provides that it is an offence for anyone to:
"(a) corruptly solicit or receive, or agree to receive for himself, or for any other person; or
(b) corruptly give, promise or offer to any person whether for the benefit of that person or of another person,
any gratification as an inducement to or reward for, or otherwise on account of —
(i) any person doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction whatsoever, actual or proposed; or
(ii) any member, officer or servant of a public body doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction whatsoever, actual or proposed, in which such public body is concerned […]"
Section 6 of PCA also provides that it is an offence for an agent to corruptly accept or obtain any gratification in relation to the acts or performance of his principal. For example, this may involve an employee corruptly accepting or obtaining any gratification in relation to the acts of his company.
Further, sections 11 and 12 of the PCA provide that it is an offence to offer gratification to domestic public officials.
Under the PCA, “gratification” has a wide definition which includes both monetary and non-monetary benefits. Monetary benefits include “any gift, loan, fee, reward, commission, valuable security or other property or interest in property of any description, whether movable or immovable”. Non-monetary benefits include “any other service, favour or advantage of any description whatsoever”.
Does the law distinguish between bribery of a public official and bribery of private persons? If so, how is ‘public official’ defined? Are there different definitions for bribery of a public official and bribery of a private person?
The primary corruption offences under section 5 and 6 of the PCA apply to both the private and public sectors.
However, the law distinguishes between the private and public sectors in that there is a presumption of corruption where gratification has been given to public officials under Section 8 of the PCA. Section 8 of the PCA provides as follows:
8. Where in any proceedings against a person for an offence under section 5 or 6, it is proved that any gratification has been paid or given to or received by a person in the employment of the Government or any department thereof or of a public body by or from a person or agent of a person who has or seeks to have any dealing with the Government or any department thereof or any public body, that gratification shall be deemed to have been paid or given and received corruptly as an inducement or reward as hereinbefore mentioned unless the contrary is proved.
Section 8 of the PCA defines a public official as “a person in the employment of the Government or any department thereof or of a public body by or from a person or agent of a person who has or seeks to have any dealing with the Government or any department thereof or any public body”.
Section 2 of the PCA defines a “public body” widely as “any corporation, board, council, commissioners or other body which has power to act under and for the purposes of any written law relating to public health or to undertakings or public utility or otherwise to administer money levied or raised by rates or charges in pursuance of any written law”.
There are also specific offences under the PCA which relate to the public sector, in particular:
- Corruptly procuring the withdrawal from a government tender (section 10 of the PCA);
- Bribery of a member of the Singapore Parliament (section 11 of the PCA); and
- Bribery of a member of a public body (section 12 of the PCA).
Further, there are specific offences under the Penal Code which relate to the public sector, in particular:
- The acceptance by a public servant of a gratification or anything of value without any or adequate consideration (section 165 of the Penal Code);
- The acceptance of a gratification by any person in order to influence or to exercise personal influence over a public servant (sections 162-163 of the Penal Code); and
- The acceptance by a public servant of a gratification or anything of value as a reward for doing any official act, outside of legal remuneration (section 161 of the Penal Code).
Under the Penal Code, "public servant" is defined under section 21 of the Penal Code as including:
- An officer in the Singapore Armed Forces;
- A judge;
- An officer of a court of justice;
- An assessor assisting a court of justice;
- An arbitrator or other person to whom any cause or matter has been referred for decision;
- An office holder who holds powers to confine other persons;
- An officer of the Singapore Government;
- An officer who acts on behalf of the Government; or
- A member of the Public Service or Legal Service Commission.
What are the civil consequences of bribery in your jurisdiction?
Under Section 14 of the PCA, where a bribe has been given by any person to an agent, the agent’s principal may recover the value of the bribe as a civil debt. This would allow, for example, a company to seek damages from a former director or employee who received corrupt payments on account of their dealings on behalf of the company. Any such civil liability would be in addition to any penalty or fine imposed as part of a criminal sentence.
In addition to the civil recovery proceedings under the PCA, other types of civil action are available. For example, in certain circumstances, it is possible for a company to bring a civil action for conspiracy against its employee(s) who received bribes and/or the person who gave bribes.
What are the criminal consequences of bribery in your jurisdiction?
Any person found guilty of an offence under the PCA may be subject to the following:
- A fine of up to S$ 100,000;
- Imprisonment of up to five years (for private sector offences); and/or
- Imprisonment of up to seven years (for public sector offences).
Further, under Section 13 of the PCA, any person found guilty of receiving a bribe may also be ordered to pay a penalty equal to the amount of the bribe itself.
Penalties for corruption offences under the Penal Code can be in the form of a fine and/or imprisonment of up to seven years.
Does the law place any restrictions on hospitality, travel and entertainment expenses? Are there specific regulations restricting such expenses for foreign public officials?
There are no specific restrictions placed on the provision of hospitality, travel and entertainment expenses per se.
However, careful consideration should be given before providing any hospitality, travel or entertainment to domestic public officials. This is since, under section 8 of the PCA, any gratification given to public officials will be presumed to have been given corruptly unless proven otherwise.
There are no explicit equivalent restrictions in the context of foreign public officials. However, the general prohibition of bribery under sections 5 and 6 of the PCA applies.
Are political contributions regulated?
Political contributions are primarily regulated by the Political Donations Act (Cap 236) (PDA). This legislation was enacted predominantly to prevent foreign citizens and foreign controlled bodies from interfering in the domestic political process by funding candidates and political associations.
Under the PDA, political associations and candidates can only accept contributions from permissible donors (Singapore citizens not less than 21 years of age, Singapore-controlled companies carrying on business mainly in Singapore, or a candidate's political party). If donations come from anonymous donors, such donations from anonymous donors may not exceed S$5,000 per financial year.
Donors who donate an aggregate sum of S$ 10,000 or more in a calendar year, political associations and any aspiring or actual political candidate must file donation reports, at least annually, to the Registrar of Political Donations. Donation reports should state details such as the identity of donors, value of donations and circumstances in which donations were made.
Are facilitation payments regulated? If not, what is the general approach to such payments?
Facilitation payments may be defined as payments which are made to public officials to speed up an administrative process where the outcome is already pre-determined.
Facilitation payments are not specifically regulated in Singapore – in particular, there is no exemption or defence applicable to such payments similar to that provided under the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977 (FCPA).
Thus, facilitation payments would constitute an act of bribery under Singapore law.
Are there any defences available?
There are no formal defences available under the PCA or Penal Code. In particular, there is no equivalent to the facilitation payment exemption found under the FCPA, or the “adequate procedures” defence under the United Kingdom Bribery Act 2010 that a company has put in place adequate procedures to prevent corruption.
Further, section 23 of the PCA explicitly states that the fact that the giving of gifts or other benefits is customary in any trade or profession is not a valid defence to a corruption offence.
Are compliance programs a mitigating factor to reduce/eliminate liability for bribery offences in your jurisdiction? Please identify any guidance indicating what features a compliance program should have in order to provide an effective defence/mitigation.
As discussed above, there is no formal "adequate procedures" defence in Singapore to reduce or eliminate liability for bribery offences on account of the implementation of a compliance program.
That being said, where there is an effective anti-bribery compliance program in place, this may be a mitigating consideration for prosecutors in deciding whether to commence criminal proceedings and/or for the courts at sentencing stage.
The new Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) scheme may also allow companies to highlight effective anti-bribery compliance programs as part of their negotiations on any DPA to be entered into with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC). A DPA is a voluntary alternative in which a prosecutor agrees to grant amnesty in exchange for a defendant agreeing to fulfil certain requirements and specific conditions, such as, for example, co-operating in investigations into wrongdoing by individuals. For now, there are no publicly-available guidelines on when the AGC will enter into a DPA with a corporate entity.
Who may be held liable for bribery? Only individuals, or also corporate entities?
Both individuals and corporate entities may be held liable for bribery. The primary bribery offences under sections 5 and 6 of the PCA apply to all "persons". The term "person" is defined in the Interpretation Act as including "any company or association of body of persons, corporate or unincorporated."
In practice, however, the authorities' enforcement efforts have focused predominantly on individuals, with prosecutions against corporates entities for corruption offences being rare to date.
Has the government published any guidance advising how to comply with anti-corruption and bribery laws in your jurisdiction? If so, what are the elements of an effective corporate compliance program?
The CPIB has published their answers to some frequently asked questions relating to anti-corruption and bribery laws in Singapore on their website at http://www.ifaq.gov.sg/CPIB/apps/Fcd_faqmain.aspx.
In 2017, the CPIB and SPRING (now Enterprise Singapore – a government agency championing enterprise development) also launched the Singapore Standard (SS) ISO 37001 on anti-bribery management systems. This voluntary standard is based on internationally-recognised good practices. It provides guidelines to help Singapore companies strengthen their anti-bribery compliance systems and processes and ensure compliance with anti-bribery laws.
Further, in 2017, CPIB published PACT – its Practical Anti-Corruption Guide for Businesses in Singapore.
PACT provides guidance for business owners on how to develop and implement an anti-corruption system. The elements of an effective corporate compliance program as stated in PACT include the following:
- Tone from the top promoting a corporate culture of compliance;
- Implementation of clear, visible and easy to understand anti-corruption policies and a code of conduct;
- Guidance on common corruption risk areas including:
- Corporate gifts and entertainment;
- Conflicts of interests; and
- Contributions and sponsorship.
- Conducting bribery and corruption risk assessments;
- The implementation of effective internal controls;
- The availability of effective reporting and whistleblower systems; and
- Regular monitoring of the compliance system.
Does the law provide protection to whistle-blowers?
There is currently no specific omnibus legislation to provide protection to whistle-blowers in Singapore. However, some protection is offered by the PCA – in particular, section 36 of the PCA protects the identity of whistle-blowers in the context of court proceedings relating to PCA offences.
There is growing attention in terms of the need for such specific legislation.
How common are government authority investigations into allegations of bribery?
Based on statistics from 2014 to 2018, the CPIB typically receives between 358 and 475 corruption-related complaints per year. Corruption cases registered for investigation by the CPIB were between 103 and 136 per year from 2014 to 2018.
What are the recent trends in investigations and enforcement in your jurisdiction?
Based on the CPIB’s annual report for 2018, cases involving private sector individuals continued to form the majority, or 88%, of all the new cases registered for investigation by the CPIB in 2018. Of these, 15% involved public sector employees rejecting bribes offered by private sector individuals. The proportion of public sector cases remained low, accounting for 12% of all cases registered for investigation in 2018.
The Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) which was passed by Parliament on 19 March 2018 also introduced the option of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) in Singapore. A DPA is a voluntary alternative in which a prosecutor agrees to grant amnesty in exchange for a defendant agreeing to fulfil certain requirements and specific conditions, such as, for example, implementing compliance programmes, and/or co-operating in investigations into wrongdoing by individuals. For now, there are no publicly-available guidelines on when the AGC will enter into a DPA with a corporate entity.
The introduction of DPAs in Singapore may be an indication of an increased focus on corporate entities by the Singapore government. This is since the Singapore Ministry of Law stated that the DPAs serve two main purposes – to encourage corporate reform to prevent future offending, and facilitate investigations into wrongdoing both by the company and by individuals.
Is there a process of judicial review for challenging government authority action and decisions?
Yes. Three requirements must be satisfied before an applicant may be granted leave to commence judicial review proceedings:
- the subject matter of the complaint has to be susceptible to judicial review
- the applicant has to have sufficient interest in the matter; and
- the materials before the court have to disclose an arguable or prima facie case of reasonable suspicion in favour of granting the remedies sought by the applicant
After preliminary requirements are met, the court may also decline jurisdiction if the matter is not justiciable. For example, where the decision involves matters of government policy and requires the intricate balancing of various competing policy considerations that judges are ill-equipped to adjudicate, or where a judicial pronouncement could embarrass some other branch of government or tie its hands in the conduct of affairs traditionally regarded as falling within its purview.
The scope of judicial review may involve, amongst others, reviewing (i) whether there was evidence to establish a “precedent fact” which was relied on in a government authority action or decision or (ii) whether the government authority action or decision was illegal, irrational or procedurally improper.
Are there any planned developments or reforms of bribery and anti-corruption laws in your jurisdiction?
As discussed above, the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) which was passed by Parliament on 19 March 2018 introduced the option of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) in Singapore. A DPA is a voluntary alternative in which a prosecutor agrees to grant amnesty in exchange for a defendant agreeing to fulfil certain requirements and specific conditions, such as, for example, implementing compliance programmes, and/or co-operating in investigations into wrongdoing by individuals.
The introduction of DPAs in Singapore may be an indication of an increased focus on corporate entities by the Singapore government. This is since the Singapore Ministry of Law stated that the DPAs serve two main purposes – to encourage corporate reform to prevent future offending, and facilitate investigations into wrongdoing both by the company and by individuals. Corporations who wish to engage in DPA discussions must be represented by lawyers under the law.
Given Singapore’s status as a key commerce and financial hub in Asia with a strong rule of law, continuing reforms to Singapore's anti-bribery and corruption laws are bound to be contemplated. The corruption case involving Keppel Offshore & Marine highlights such a need given the transnational nature of both inbound and outbound business for local and foreign companies in Singapore.
To which international anti-corruption conventions is your country party?
Singapore is a party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption which was ratified on 6 November 2009. Singapore is also a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime which was ratified on 28 August 2007.
Further, Singapore is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG). CPIB also represents Singapore at various anti-corruption fora such as:
- Asian Development Bank (ABD) - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia and Pacific
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Anti-Corruption and Transparency Experts' Working Group (ACTWG)
- Economic Crime Agencies Network (ECAN)
- G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG)
- International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA)
- South East Asia – Parties Against Corruption (SEA-PAC)
Do you have a concept of legal privilege in your jurisdiction which applies to lawyer-led investigations? If so, please provide details on the extent of that protection.
Singapore law recognises legal advice privilege and litigation privilege, both of which are codified under the Evidence Act. In summary:
- Legal advice privilege protects confidential communications with a lawyer made for the purposes of seeking or giving legal advice; and
- Litigation privilege protects confidential communications with a lawyer made in reasonable contemplation of litigation.
Under the Evidence Act, legal advice and litigation privilege apply in the context of both civil and criminal litigation.
However, the question of whether companies can avoid disclosure on grounds of privilege has not been tested in any reported case.
How much importance does your government place on tackling bribery and corruption? How do you think your jurisdiction’s approach to anti-bribery and corruption compares on an international scale?
Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance approach to corruption. Based on CPIB’s Annual Report 2018, the CPIB has consistently achieved a high annual clearance rate, completing investigations into 80% of the number of subjects investigated in 2018. The conviction rate also remained high, averaging 98% over the past five years.
Singapore was ranked third least corrupt country globally in Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). In the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy's 2018 Report on Corruption in Asia, Singapore was also ranked the least corrupt country in the region - a position Singapore has held since 1995. Further, Singapore ranked fourth for absence of corruption in the 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index compiled by the World Justice Project, and is the top Asian nation out of 113 countries.
Singapore’s resolve and commitment to fight corruption continues to be deeply unwavering. Singapore’s anti-corruption approach stands shoulder to shoulder with the best international standards both locally and in terms of international co-operation with other anti-corruption agencies.
Generally how serious are organisations in your country about preventing bribery and corruption?
In light of Singapore’s zero-tolerance approach to corruption, organisations in Singapore are generally serious about preventing bribery and corruption. Companies in Singapore know that no one is above the law and organisations will not be spared the full brunt of the law if the company, management or employees are caught for corruption or corrupt practices.
To combat corruption in the private sector, CPIB launched the Anti-Corruption Partnership Network (ACPN) in September 2018. It aims to encourage firms to adopt anti-corruption measures and inculcate a culture of integrity and business ethics among their staff through sharing sessions and discussions.
What are the biggest challenges enforcement agencies/regulators face when investigating and prosecuting cases of bribery and corruption in your jurisdiction?
CPIB has highlighted that one of the biggest challenges that it faces is that corruption is hard to detect – with perpetrators going to great lengths to conceal the corrupt transactions and proceeds. CPIB also highlighted that, for corruption, both the giver and receiver of bribes are offenders who would avoid telling the truth to shield themselves from criminal prosecution.
Furthermore, evidence gathering in cross-border transactions would also typically pose a challenge for enforcement agencies.
What do you consider will be the most significant corruption-related challenges posed to businesses in your jurisdiction over the next 18 months?
Although Singapore has done well in terms of combating corruption, Singapore is situated in the Asia Pacific region which exposes Singapore to various corruption risks. In 2018’s CPI, it was noted that the Asia Pacific region had made little progress in the fight against corruption with a fairly low score of 44/100 for three consecutive years.
Singapore companies with overseas business interests and multi-national corporations with their regional headquarters in Singapore may be exposed as a result of corruption activities taking place overseas especially in cross-border dealings. In this regard, the PCA has extra-territorial powers to deal with corrupt acts committed by a Singapore citizen outside Singapore as though these were committed in Singapore. Pressures on financial results arising from economic growth factors (or slow growth) in the region may also be a challenge to companies operating in and out of Singapore.
How would you improve the legal framework and process for preventing, investigating and prosecuting cases of bribery and corruption?
One of the ways that the legal framework for preventing corruption can be improved is the enaction of robust whistle-blower protection laws, and raising awareness of such laws once they are enacted. Such whistle-blower protection laws are in place in most developed countries, and may encourage employees to report wrongdoing and protect them when they do. Otherwise, a whistle-blower may be concerned that reporting any wrongdoing may lead to him losing his job, being threatened, physically harmed or sued for defamation. The issue of stigma for whistle-blowers is a real and present one.