The President Has Failed Us

Apparently Dr Tony Tan thinks that the most important “highlights” of his Presidency to date are (a) supporting Team Singapore at the London Olympics, and (b) being inducted into the Honorary Senate of the Lindau Foundation for the Nobel Prizewinners Meetings.

Really, that’s kid’s stuff, that’s what ceremonial presidents and heads of state do.

For a $1.5M man, I’d hoped for a more comprehensive report on his first year in office as an Executive President.

Did he watch over our reserves? Did he scrutinise the Budget? Did he control the Civil Service appointments? That’s what I want to hear.

The recent revelation by the Auditor General (see Page 16) that the MOF breached the law by not seeking the President’s consent for a promissory note to the International Development Association is alarming, to say the least.

Not because the Govt deliberately broke the law– I can accept this was probably a procedural lapse, an administrative oversight, I don’t think they intended to bypass the president deliberately.

But what causes me alarm is why the President’s office has not issued any statement on this. Not in Jan 2012, when the incident happened, and not even now, when the incident has been made public by the Auditor-General.

Is it not reasonable for President Tan to express his grave concern over such a breach of the Constitution by MOF? Should he not ask the Finance Minister to provide an official explanation? Is it not reasonable for him to ask the Govt to why the safeguards and controls failed in this case, and what they will do to make sure such an incident does not happen again?

I think that is what we should expect from an Executive President whom we are paying $1.5M per year to watch over our reserves and key civil service appointments.

Instead of officiating at charity events and sports events— which any figurehead president can do— Dr Tan should be highlighting his value-add to the people. People have a right to know what $1.5M per year buys for them.

It may be that Dr Tan has already asked the Finance Minister to explain what happened behind closed doors, that he is satisfied with the Govt’s explanations and he considers the matter closed, and he does not think he should take MOF to task publicly.

I disagree.

This is not the kind of situation that calls for ‘quiet diplomacy’. People need to see that the President is doing his job, and doing it in a transparent and open manner.

Indeed, this is one way for the President to show that he adds value, and for him to keep quiet is to throw away a golden chance to strengthen the institution of the Executive President.

Dr Tan may well go down in history as the President who kept quiet even when the Constitution was breached.

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15 Responses to The President Has Failed Us

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 4 Sep 2012 | The Singapore Daily

  2. OldSingaporean says:

    Article 144 reads “No guarantee or loan shall be given or raised by the Government ..”
    According to the interpretation of the Attorney General in the case of the loan to Indonesia, the constitution does not prohibit the giving of a loan since the article should be read as “No guarantee shall be given by the government or no loan shall be raised by the government..” and therefore, the government can give a loan without asking for approval.
    This interpretation of the Attorney General is of course flawed since prohibition of giving a guarantee automatically prohibits the giving of a loan. However, until today, the government’s position still has not differed from the Attorney General’s interpretation. As a result of this report of the Auditor General, my guess is that the current Auditor General’s term is not going to be renewed since he clearly does not know the government’s position and has embarrassed the government with his report.

    • Thanks for comments.

      1. It’s not a interpretation by the AGO alone, it is clear MOF agreed with the AG and re-submitted the promissory note to President Tan for his approval.

      2. In theory, AGO is a civil service appointee subject to Presidential oversight. Hence he could always appeal to the President, I suppose.

  3. patriot says:

    It is very unimaginable to expect the Elected President to take the initiative nor does he has the prerogative to prise into any State Affair. The Presidency after all is oni a ceremonial appointment. and therefore the President is oni a piece of windowing dressing material.

    Is it not right to say that the President is at the behest of the Parliament/Cabinet?

    patriot

    • The President has certain powers and therefore has the prerogative to take actions in his exercising of such powers.

      He is not at the behest of the Cabinet in these matters. Indeed, the Cabinet has to answer to his satisfaction if necessary before he will even consider approving any loan or guarantee.

  4. henry says:

    There are 2 wallets, A & B
    Wallet A is money that the current Gov can use.
    Wallet B is money that the current Gov CANNOT use, unless permission is granted by the President.
    The President looks after the money in wallet B.

    # 1. Accountancy is not a science and moving things around is easily done, especially if its all within the same household.

    # 2. The vagueness of the law ( constitution ) helps is doing # 1.

    End of story.

  5. Ricky says:

    It could have been $4 million per annum if not for LTK did to Aljunied.The minister pay review would definitely not be convened.

  6. Alan says:

    He already earned himself the honour as the first President-elect who was publicly booed. If he continues to remain silent, it will only serve to prove that the purpose of the President is a dud.

  7. mandas says:

    Let me remind everyone of this video:


    Please do watch the video and decide for the role of elected president.

    http://nathanielkoh.blogspot.sg/2009/04/transcript-of-1988-tv-debate-on-elected.html

    “GOH CHOK TONG (GCT): Thank you, Mr Chairman. The Elected President is to protect our reserves. These are your hard earned savings, your CPF money, which is looked after on your behalf by the government. Presently, the only safeguard is the integrity of the PAP government. If an irresponsible, unscrupulous and dishonest government should one day come into power, they can spend your money without telling you about it. When you retire at 55 and try to withdraw your CPF, it will be gone. Hence our proposal to create an Elected President. ”

    Watch video and read the blog yourself, and ask yourself, did PAP and elected president fulfil their promise ? What credibility of government is there when the auditor has verified that the law is broken.
    http://www.tremeritus.com/2012/08/31/auditor-general-mof-breached-constitution-article-144/

    Please read the blog before it is possibly taken down.

  8. mandas says:

    Clearer video

    This will give you some idea back then on the issue of having elected president, and strangely what we see is happening as the elected president is nothing but puppet of the ruling party.

    • I wouldn’t say he is a puppet but he certainly does too many things behind closed doors that doesn’t allow him to show what value he brings.

      • Darren says:

        that’s why PAP wants to ‘endorse’ only a certain candidate during the President Election. the others wld hv asked too many embarassing questions for e PAP’s liking.

  9. Milton says:

    The President Predecessor’s pay is $4m., more than his double. surely he could seemed it fair to be more silent on this than anymore the former was vocal over such issues. But no blog about past president value for money was written before, signaling critiques responses are also a spillover dissatisfaction against incumbent himself.

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