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05 Aug 2019
Ministry of Trade & Industry
Feedback View - 401
Accountability and financial responsibility

At a National Day speech in Tanjong Pagar, minister Chan Chun Sing said that accountability means not passing debts to children.

I don't know where he got this definition. 

I would use the term "financial responsibility" to mean not passing debts to the next generation. 

Accountability means to take responsibility for your own actions, e.g a government has accountability for decisions and laws affecting its citizens. Sometimes, taking accountability means admitting you made a mistake.

If the government is accountable, it has to explain why it spend $4.85 billion to build the last 3 stations of the Circle Line, which is 5 times of the average cost per km for the earlier stages. It is not sufficient to say - because of difficult ground conditions. Even allowing for ground conditions, the price tag is excessive. There is also the question - can we do without this expensive segment? 

What about the cost of $21 billion to build the Downtown Line. The cost per km increased from $160 million (adjusted for inflation) for the North South Line to $490 million for the Downtown Line. While part of the higher cost is due to the Downtown Line being completely underground, it should not account for the price tag being 3 times. 

To be accountable, the government has to answer the following questions:

a) Has the standard of financial control slacked over the years?
b) Is the tendering system still reliable in produce acceptable prices?
c) Could alternative designs be considered for segments that are too expensive?

I do not accept that the current government has acted in an accountable manner in these two big decisions. There are many other decisions taken by the government that raise many questions.  I am referring to decisions that affect billions of dollars, such as infrastructure works and defense spending. 

We have also seen many decisions, such as training death of National Servicemen, handled in a manner that does not measure up to the standard of accountability. In other countries, the minister or top commanders in charge would resign to take responsibility for the deaths. In Singapore, the lower down soldiers take the rap.

I wonder if the current ministers understand the meaning of accountability. If they don't, they cannot act in an accountable manner. It does not help when a minister coins up a new definition for this word.

Tan Kin Lian

Vote - do you agree that the sense of accountability is lacking in the current government?


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