SINGAPORE (Mar 5): Temasek Holdings chairman Lim Boon Heng has called for the second Temasek Roundtable for the chairs of major Temasek portfolio companies to align themselves and set expectations on how they should operate and conduct business – ethically, and with proper guidance.

This comes as the offshore and marine (O&M) division of Keppel Corporation, Keppel O&M, continues to face a corruption probe in relation to bribery transactions which took place over 2001-2014, but only came to light in 2016.

See: Keppel Corp’s internal investigations uncovers ‘suspicious’ transactions

See: Keppel O&M fined US$422 mil as part of resolution over bribes for contracts by ex-agent Skornicki

See: Keppel corruption probe not yet over; former key execs reportedly arrested

During a small group meeting with portfolio company chairs following Temasek’s Chinese New Year Lunch, Lim reveals that the second Temasek Roundtable in the next few months will focus on questions of governance and ethics, and called for the companies’ active support and participation in the event.

Aside from highlighting Singapore’s reputation as one of the world’s least corrupt countries, the chairman underscored a “bright red line” which Temasek’s companies should not cross.

“What happened recently was a shock, not just to the company concerned, but it really dents the reputation of Singapore and all the other Temasek companies,” said Lim, presumably referring to Keppel’s ongoing corruption investigation.

“Recent news has been centred on bribes being paid, but corruption offences are not limited to bribes. Corruption takes on many guises. In many jurisdictions, the penalties for price fixing and collusion are no different to bribery, and the offence no less serious. It takes courage to walk away from business opportunities, but it is more important to maintain and protect the reputation of your company and our nation,” he added.

While Lim acknowledged the consequence of wrongdoing for a company’s individuals, he emphasises that the stain on the reputation of the company, on its shareholders, and on Singapore as even more damaging.

Citing Senior Minister of State, Indranee Rajah’s speech in Parliament which urged Temasek portfolio companies’ boards and management to ensure that proper policies and governance are in place and practiced, Lim highlights his audiences’ positions as “stewards of our companies” who are entrusted with the responsibility of being the owners and guardians of their respective companies’ reputations.

More details of the roundtable will be announced in the coming months.

Temasek also intends to bring in domain experts to impart their advice on best practices as well as continue the series of forums in function areas during the year, such as those organised by the group’s legal and public affairs teams.

“Please reinforce your commitment with your fellow directors, and especially to your management teams. I count on your support as we build and deepen engagement on these questions with you and your teams in coming months. This is critical as your companies grow and globalise beyond Singapore,” said Lim.