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Case Study: The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in Singapore

Case Study: The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in Singapore

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written for the Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGAP) of the World Bank
written for the Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGAP) of the World Bank

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Published by: Jason Vincent Cabanes on Mar 12, 2010
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Siaoe Case Study
In recent years, the Singapore government has been lauded for its success in minimizing corruption. In2007, the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) ranked Singapore as theleast corrupt among twelve Asian countries. In the same year, Transparency International (TI) also ratedthe city-state as the fourth least corrupt country among 180 countries. Part of this success has been at-tributed to its Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), an independent government body that bothcombats and prevents corruption in the public and private sectors.Beyond conducting probes however, the CPIB is also involved in various activities that help promote aculture of anti-corruption in the Singaporean government. For one, it regularly holds local partnershipforums with corruption-prone agencies. It also reviews work procedures in various government depart-ments in view of recommending corruption prevention or remediation measures. Moreover, CPIB collabo-rates with local institutions of higher learning in creating corruption education and prevention programs
for public ofcials. To further reinforce all these local initiatives, it participates in international anti-cor
-ruption forums, sharing and deriving expertise from these global gatherings (MICA, 2008).
Oaizatioal cultue ad imae
One possible explanation for the success of the CPIB is that it is an ideal example of Schien’s (1985)organizational culture model. This framework posits that in such an organization, there is an alignment of the three levels of culture: (a) artifacts and creations, (b) values, and (c) basic assumptions.
At the very surface of the organizational culture of CPIB are its artifacts and creations, dened as the
tangible objects and the overt actions carried out by members of the organization (Schein, 1985). Interms of CPIB’s work, these consist of various anti-corruption measures that foster the engagementamong civil servants. Examples of such initiatives that establish formal mechanisms to generate bottom-
up ideas for a more efcient and transparent public service are the Staff Suggestion Scheme (SSS), WorkImprovement Teams (WIT), and The Enterprise Challenge (TEC). The CPIB also makes use of the Inter
net as a tool to involve citizens in the ght against corruption. For example, GeBiz aims to inform the
online public about the government’s procurement activities through a website. To foster active participa-tion, there is also the Cut Red Tape Movement, which aims to promote transparency by getting citizens toreport feedback online. (Phua, 2006).
CPIB’s artifacts and creations coincide with the organization’s professed organizational values, dened as
the members’ preferences or conceptions of what ought to happen in the organizational setting (Schein,1985). Although the individual members of the CPIB may possess widely divergent sets of values, there
are those that the organization will tend to emphasize. A clear indication of this is the codication of 
agreed upon values of CPIB in its mission-vision statement, core values, and codes of conduct, all of 
which are prominently displayed on the ofcial website (http://www.cpib.gov.sg). Schein (1985) alsoexplains that the values of an organization’s founder deeply inuence the values of the organizational
Siaoe Case Study
| 2
itself. Indeed, the CPIB is strongly guided by the fervent anti-corruption stance of People’s Action Party
(PAP) founder Lee Kuan Yew, who said that “Singapore can survive only if Ministers and senior ofcers areincorruptible and efcient…Only when we uphold the integrity of the administration can the economy work
in a way which enables Singaporeans to clearly see the nexus between hard work and high rewards” (inChua, 2002).
The rst two levels of the CPIB’s organizational culture are successful only because they are consonant
with the bureau’s most basic assumptions. According to Schein (1985), it is these undergirding beliefs that
have the strongest inuence on organizational culture, as they are a “natural part of ‘the way we are’ or ‘the way we do things around here’” (Miller, 1995). Fortunately for the CPIB, these beliefs exist in a coun
-try where corruption prevention is seen as a necessity. This has been clearly expressed by former CPIBdirector Chua (2002), who said that their well-intentioned anti-corruption projects would not have workedas well in a context where corrupt practices are accepted. As he has emphasized, “we in CPIB can only beas effective as the government wants us to be. CPIB has the structures, systems and processes that wereallowed to work, given the right operating environment created by a strong political will.” Another thing that may have added to the CPIB’s success is that it is able to sustain a coordinated com-munication campaign as regards its anti-corruption image. As McNair (2003) argues, it is necessary formembers of political organizations to be “on message” all the time. Otherwise, public relations disastersare more likely to occur. Certainly, the CPIB has been able to do this with its well-planned informationbarrage regarding its anti-corruption initiatives that tap various communication channels, including print
media (e.g., the coffee table book, Swift and Sure Action: Four Decades of Anti-Corruption Work One), on
-line materials (e.g., the CPIB virtual heritage tool), and public presentations (e.g., conferences speeches ininternational anti-corruption conventions). As the PERC and TI surveys have shown, these activities havereinforced the CPIB’s positive image, thereby helping legitimize the strong enforcement of their mandate(Jing, 2007).
Lessos Leaed
Organizational culture can be communicated at the level of artifacts and objects.
This is manifested in
CPIB’s measures that seek to involve both civil servants (e.g., SSS, WIT, and TEC) and the Singaporeanpublic (e.g., GeBiz and Cut The Red Tape Movement) in the ght against corruption
.Organizational culture can also be communicated in espoused beliefs and values.
This is expressedin the CPIB’s mission-vision statement, core values, and codes of conduct, all of which are said to be
strongly inuenced by the organizational founder, Lee Kuan Yew.
Beyond artifacts and objects and espoused beliefs and values, it is really the organization’s basic as-
sumptions that most prominently defne its culture.
In the case of the CPIB, this has been the unques-tioned belief that Singapore needs corruption prevention if it is to be a globally competitive country. It isthe strong political will borne out of this that enables the successful realization of the CPIB’s mandate.
 A well-coordinated communication campaign helps in promoting an organization’s image.
The CPIB issuccessful in doing this because it stays “on message” about its strong anti-corruption stance by dis-seminating information through books, online materials, and public presentations.
Siaoe Case Study
Chua, C. Y. (2002).
Corruption control: What works? 
Guiyang: OECD.Jing, S. (2007).
Corruption by design? A comparative study of Singapore, Hong Kong & mainland China.
Canberra: ANU.McNair, B. (2003). An introduction to political communication. London and New York: Routledge.
Miller, K. (1995). Organizational communication: Approaches & processes. USA: Wadsworth.
Ministry of Communication and Information (2008).
Retrieved 17 October 2008 from http://www.sg/SG_Yrbook2008/Gov&Politics_CPIB.html
Phua, M. G. (2006).
Overview of corruption control in the private sector: Singapore.
Da Nang:APEC.Schein, E. H. (1985.)
Organizational culture & leadership.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Prepared by Jason Vincent Cabañes, lecturer of Political Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), with the help of the following
students: Kristel Anne Acedera from ADMU, Ana Khristina Puatu from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacic University (APU), and Pauline Grace Mardo, Tristan
Longalong, Maria Andrea Villalva, and Louise Justine Zapanta from De La Salle University (DLSU).

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