I give my views on why ministers should declare their assets.

Ministers have a lot of power and discretion to make decisions involving hundred of million dollars. Their decisions are hardly challenged by their subordinates. It is easy for corrupt ministers to collect millions of dollars in bribes to make decisions in favor of certain parties.

The need to make the declaration should also extend to top civil servants.

It does not need to go down to lower levels, because the discretion and spending authority of junior civil servants are limited. Furthermore, the senior civil servants are able to monitor these decisions.

How does the declaration help to reduce corruption?

The declaration requires the minister and top civil servants to explain their assets annually. If the assets have increased significantly, the declarer has to explain the source of the income.

It is possible for the declarer to lie about the assets. They can hide the assets or fail to declare them.

This failure to declare the assets is, by itself, an offence and can cause the declarer to be terminated from service.

Should the declaration be extended to assets owned by family members?

It should include the spouse and those assets owned by children which are purchased from the income of the declarer. It should not include the assets that are acquired by the earnings of the family members.

I have seen declaration forms that require the declarer to state all the assets owned by family members. This requirement is unreasonable. The declarer may not be aware about these assets.

My suggested form of declaration for family members is not water tight. But it is practical and is a reasonable compromise.

In most cases, the assets owned by the declarer will not change much from one year to another. They will increase due to the savings from legitimate and taxed source of income.

The exception is assets obtained from inheritance. This can be explained and is not likely to be frequent.

Should the declaration be made public? I suggest that it should be a public document. This will allow whistle blowers to point out non declaration.

However, if is likely to be detrimental, an alternative approach is for the declaration should be provided to a panel appointed by Parliament or elected by the people. The members is required to observe an oath of secrecy.

This panel should be independent of any minister or the prime minister. After all, the ministers are the subject of the scrutiny.

To make the declaration non-onerous, it should be a simple declaration giving a listing of large assets and a total value of investment portfolios. It should cover local and overseas assets. The assets do not need to be specified in great detail. It is not an audited financial statement.

This declaration should be accompanied by a parallel process of making major decisions public. There is no need to hide the expenditure of military hardware or infrastructure projects, as being state secrets. They are not. The governments of hostile countries will have a way of knowing these secrets. Why should the information by hidden from the people.

I support the requirement for ministers and top civil servants to declare their assets and for major expenditure to be made public.

Tan Kin Lian