This is scandal January in Singapore. There are serious allegations against an opposition politician which I'll not repeat here and 2 of our top public servants have been sack and under investigation for corruption.
Cecilia Sue Siew Nang picture found here
According to the papers, the 2 top public servants have admitted to receiving "sexual favors" from a supplier of IT equipment. That in itself cannot be condoned because it clearly results in a conflict of interest The CPIB guys are probably checking if the favors have been exchanged for something else like circumventing standard procurement procedures or influenced the decision making - that will constitute a more serious offense than "personal misconduct". Suppliers are always out to influence the acquisition decisions and while some of it looks like just maintaining good customer relationships if they go far enough it looks more like corruption. You can replace the phrase "sexual favors" with "money" then it looks more serious. You can also replace it with "fine dining", "golf games", ...or more innocuous stuff like calenders, corporate gifts, Christmas hampers, CNY goodiess etc. Sometimes the create a situation where you end up taking something. An IT supplier can organised a seminar to introduce its state of the art equipment at a hotel and you have to go to get the information which is part of your job. The supplier may include for a free lunch at a fine restaurant and end up taking something from the supplier. Most people in acquisition whether in the public or private sector are not so puritan to walk off to eat at the nearby MacDonald's. You're in a group so you feel less guilty besides you're not going to let that lunch influence your decision - at least that is what you'll tell yourself. There is no "absolutes" and plenty of grey areas so I really wonder what Teo Chee Hean means by "zero tolerance"....so do they send back all the Christmas cards and calenders they get from suppliers in the public service? If the supplier pours you a cup of coffee, you're not suppose to drink it? ...
Big businesses protect their interests by influencing of public servants and policy makers. While this may differ from out-right corruption, undue influence can be equally harmful to society. In the US, they are known as lobbyists and big businesses would hire top experts as consultants and use them to "lobby" for favorable legislation especially in the tabacco and energy sectors. In Singapore, following the cooling measures implemented by the govt, a powerful organisation of real estate developers known as REDAS (Real Estate Developers Association of Singapore) expressed disappointment with the measures and that they were not consulted[Link]. Let me ask you - is there an equally powerful "home buyers association" represnting ordinary Singaporean homebuyers? The govt did the right thing not consulting REDAS on the cooling measures. In fact it should never consult REDAS for anything unless there is an organisation on the other side that can represent the interests of home buyers. Home buyers have suffered for years due to rising cost of real estate yet these developers who have been raking in big profits have the cheek to speak out against the cooling measures. In Singapore, GLCs form a large part of the economy and these companies have close ties with the ruling party. Unless the govt can consistently demonstrate that it will put the interests of Singaporeans above those of businesses in situation where the interests diverge, there will be a growing desire among Singaporean voters for the "check and balance" to be in place.
As for the opposition members currently embroiled in a scandal, there is no way nowadays to hush it up once the allegations surface and hope it will go away. There are only 2 approaches to handle this - deny the rumors if they are not true or admit it, apologise and work hard to compensate for your moral failings. Take the example of, Newt Gingrich who is running for the Republican ticket - when issues surrounding his divorce, he admitted his moral failings quickly and was able to move on. In Singapore, Steve Chia admitted his indiscretions and voters did not reject him outright in the next elections - he had a credible showing (40%?). Across the causeway, the ex-Malaysian health minister , Chua, from MCA was humiliated when a video captured him committing adultery. He quickly admitted he was the man in the video and did not try to lie about the affair. While his moral failing was a disappointment, some Malaysians are probably smart enough to be wary of his enemies - the ones who spent so much effort to set him up and hire people to spy on him - may be after power for a more sinister purpose. Chua has since regained his presidency of the MCA and may be able to rebuild his poltical career.
While many voters still expect moral perfection, most are beginning to understand the personal sexual indiscretions are often separate issues from integrity and performance in public office. Bill Clinton performed quite well as president by all measures and when the Lewinsky scandal emerged, his biggest mistake was to lie to the public and deny he had any relations with Lewinsky - that lie almost got him impeached. Intelligence files showed that JFK[JFK's liaisons, Jackie's pain]was a womaniser. It is damaging for political parties if elected representatives cannot behave in their private capaity but it is worse to be seen as being devious and trying to hide it. The politician involved may or may not survive the aftermath of such scandals but political parties minimise the damage by being open and candid especially those seeking greater transparency from govt....you really do not want to be seen as having double standards and be accused of hypocrisy.