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President should be like external auditor of a company: Ng Kok Song on independence

Mr Ng Kok Song (right) presenting a poem in calligraphy by his fiance Sybil Lau to Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry council member Charles Ho on Aug 14. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The elected president should be like the external auditor of a company – independent, and accountable not to management but to the external stakeholders instead.

Presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song, 75, used this analogy of corporate governance structure to make his point that the best man for president is someone without political affiliation, and “accountable not to the Government but to the people of Singapore”.

Speaking to the media after an hour-long visit to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) in Hill Street on Monday morning, Mr Ng said most companies have both internal and external auditors.

He likened internal auditors to an “ownself check ownself” system.

While it is possible that an internal auditor does a good job, there is always the risk that it is not good enough, he said.

“This is because the internal auditor reports to the top management, the CEO, and therefore it is common to see situations where the internal auditors hesitate to point out serious faults in the financial statements,” said Mr Ng, adding that this is why external auditors are sometimes required by law.

“When it comes to the position of the elected president who holds the second key to our reserves, it is important that the president should not have been part of the management. Because otherwise, the president will be constrained by what he did previously when he was part of management,” he said.

Apart from Mr Ng, who was previously chief investment officer of sovereign wealth fund GIC, the other three presidential hopefuls are former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam; Mr George Goh, an entrepreneur; and Mr Tan Kin Lian, the former chief executive of NTUC Income.

Mr Ng added that as someone who is not associated with the ruling People’s Action Party and also has the technical and financial competence in handling the reserves, he has the essential qualities to be a president.

He was accompanied by his fiancee Sybil Lau, 45, during the visit to SCCCI.

They met council members in a closed-door session, and were also given a tour of the SCCCI Chinese Business Culture Hub, which showcases the history of the chamber.

Mr Ng presented a poem in calligraphy by Ms Lau to representatives from SCCCI.

He revealed that he had submitted his symbol of a hand palm with five fingers, which represent different races, for approval.

“We are one country, one people. When one finger is hurt, the whole palm will feel the pain. This is what I aspire for – that our country, regardless of race, language or religion, will be united for our future,” said Mr Ng.

Mr Tharman said last week in a doorstop interview that he has chosen his symbol, but has not been able to submit it yet as the website for doing so is being updated.

Mr Tan told ST that he intends to apply to use his logo, unveiled at a press conference last Friday, as his symbol. It depicts four people reaching upwards.

Mr Ng also said that he is confident about representing Singapore on the international stage and playing the president’s role of chief diplomat, given his experience with GIC.

“In my time as the chief investment officer at GIC, I probably made more international trips than any of the ministers. So, I know corporate CEOs, central bankers and ministers for finance. I will do Singapore proud on the international stage,” he said.


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