Public officers must never ask for gifts or favours: Chan Chun Sing

On questions from other MPs about whether the system needs to be reviewed, Mr Chan said that the rules are meant to keep public officers from being compromised but should not be too onerous.

“When an incident happens, we should not have a knee-jerk reaction and immediately tighten or add more rules,” he said.

To understand if the system needs to be updated or tweaked, one needs to know the facts of the case – which is still before the courts, he added.

“While we endeavour to do our best and keep improving at a system level, no system is ever perfect … when incidents happen, we respond decisively and transparently to restore trust and confidence in our system. This is what we have done and this is what we will continue to do.”

And for some matters, judgement will still be required, he said: “Officers should not just understand the letter of the rule, but also the spirit.”

When it comes to meals, Mr Chan said that officers “must have good sense to know when they are being cultivated and reject such attempts”, but this does not mean that they should not go out and interact with others to understand the business and social communities.

“As a practical measure to protect ourselves. I’ve always advised our officers to avoid attending such events alone, where the risk of being compromised is harder to manage.”

In response to questions on the codes of conduct for public officers, ministers and political office holders, Mr Chan said the rules were reviewed regularly. He also reassured MPs that whistleblowers are protected.

“If anyone suspects that any of their superiors have been compromised, they can report a suspicious activity to their heads of agencies or beyond the organisation including to agencies like the CPIB (Corruption Practices Investigation Bureau).”

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