Netizens question Tin Pei Ling’s conflict of interest as Grab’s director of Public Affairs and Member of Parliament – The Online Citizen Asia

SINGAPORE — Questions of possible conflicts of interest have been asked by netizens on social media and private messaging, as Ms Tin Pei Ling, a People’s Action Party Member of Parliament, gets appointed as director of public affairs and policy by Southeast Asia’s leading super-app company, Grab in Singapore.

Channel News Asia had earlier reported Ms Tin’s appointment after noting that she was present at Grab’s Chinese New Year appreciation lunch for driver-and delivery-partners on 1 February in her new capacity. She was said to be there alongside Grab’s managing director Yee Wee Tang and Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor.

Following queries, Grab confirmed that Ms Tin was actually appointed as a director in January.

“Pei Ling has deep on-ground understanding of digital economy and smart nation policy, and close ties with the local community. She will build partnerships and programmes to harness the positive potential of technology to create impact in Singapore,” a spokesperson said to CNA.

Ms Tin had initially directed queries from media to her employer but has put up a Facebook post on Thursday to address the matter.

She wrote, “This opportunity to return to the private sector will broaden my horizons, hone new skills and allow me to make a contribution in a different way. Grab is rooted in Singapore and has a strong social mission – “to drive Southeast Asia forward by creating economic empowerment for everyone”. I admire this. So when the opportunity came, I decided to take it up.”

As for conflict of interest, since I am still a Member of Parliament, Ms Tin wrote, “There is a clear and mutual understanding that my role as a Parliamentarian is distinct from my role at Grab. The company has established clear rules of engagement to ensure that any possible conflict of interest will be properly declared and avoided. Likewise, the PAP has a published set of Rules of Prudence, as well as mechanisms in place for declarations of interest and the avoidance of conflicting interests.”

“I am absolutely clear that when I am discharging my duties in my capacity as a Member of Parliament, my constituents and Singapore come first. When I am working on behalf of Grab, I will have to ensure that Grab’s interests are safeguarded.”

“As to which capacity I represent at any time: I will be transparent and above board.”

According to her Linkedin profile, Ms Tin had just stepped down from her position as the chief executive officer at Business China, a Singapore non-profit organisation cultivating Singapore-China relationships and headed by PAP Ministers and MPs, after four years of service and is still listed as a board member.

Prior to her stint at Business China, she spent a year as group director of corporate strategy at Jing King Technology Group, now known as Adera Global from May 2017 to May 2018. The Singapore global company is involved in data security, artificial intelligence and automation.

Ms Tin had spent a couple of years as a full-time MP at Marine Parade GRC after she was elected to Parliament in 2011 and resigned from her job at Ernst and Young.

She currently chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Communications and Information, and is a member of the GPC for Culture, Community and Youth.

Questions of conflict of interest by netizens

Posting on Facebook posts on Ms Tin’s Facebook post and reports on the matter, some netizens have voiced their concerns over possible conflicts of interest in Ms Tin’s appointment with Grab.

Conflict is with Ms Tin’s position as GPC for Communications and Information

Before you get confused with the apparent conflict being with Ms Tin as a Member of Parliament, that’s not the case. MPs can and are allowed to take full-time jobs on top of their high-paying appointment as an MP.

This confusion may also very well be due to how the reporters covered the story, and Ms Tin — who is a communications professional — crafted her response on Facebook.

The conflict of interest that is at hand is Ms Tin’s appointment as the Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Communications and Information in the 14th Parliament.

Mooted by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in 1987, GPCs are groups of Members of Parliament (MPs) appointed by the Speaker of Parliament to examine specific policy areas and provide feedback to the government.

The GPCs provide a platform for MPs to discuss and review government policies, programs, and expenditure, and to make recommendations for improvements. They also serve as a channel for the government to gather public feedback on various issues and to communicate its plans and policies to the public.

If Ms Tin is just an MP, then it would be apparent when she speaks up in Parliament on certain bills or issues, as she would be required to state her position as a director of Grab.

But say if Grab violates or strays into a grey area legislation with a new service or feature, would Ms Tin be chairing the GPC to look into the matter while wearing the hat of the director of public affairs and policy?

Of course, you can say she could very well recuse herself from such discussions when Grab is directly or indirectly involved or has a vested interest in certain matters, but who knows how much discretion is exercised?

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