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.
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.