Second Reading Speech by the Minister for Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam on the Quorums of Statutory Boards (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill19 Oct 2009
1 Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time”.
2 Sir, this Bill seeks to revise the quorum for Board meetings stipulated in the Acts of 16 statutory boards.
3 Let me first explain the background to these amendments.
4 The amendments are part of the continual effort to review and where necessary enhance governance structures and processes across the Public Service. While statutory boards enjoy considerable operational autonomy to serve the public effectively, we have to set minimum standards for them to abide by.
5 In 2008, the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) had recommended that the Ministry of Finance (MOF) prescribe the quorum for Board meetings that statutory boards should specify in their Acts. MOF agrees with AGO’s proposal. My Ministry has consulted government agencies, and has decided to set a quorum requirement of “one-third of the total number of members or 3 members, whichever is the higher” for the Board meetings of all statutory boards.
6 The aim of this quorum requirement is to ensure that Board decisions are not dominated by a very small number of individuals, but are not so onerous as to hinder the effective functioning of the statutory boards.
7 The new provision is a minimum requirement. Statutory boards that already have more stringent quorum requirements may retain their existing provisions.
8 Most statutory boards already comply with this new quorum requirement. This Bill amends the relevant sections of the statutes of 16 statutory boards to reflect this new quorum requirement.
9 The amendments can be categorised with respect to three groups of statutory boards:
a. First, there are 13 statutory boards whose statutes currently provide for a range in the sizes of their Boards, with a lower bound of less than 10 members. With the proposed amendments, the statutes of these statutory boards will now stipulate the quorums of Board meetings asone-third of the total number of membersor 3 members, whichever is the higher. Just to give an example, the statute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, states that its Board size should be minimally 9, but not more than 21. It currently has 21 Board members including the Chairman. With the new provision in place, the quorum for A*STAR’s Board meetings will be 7.
b. Second, there is one statutory board, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), whose statute currently provides for a Board size of minimally 10, but not more than 18 members. The quorum will be specified as one-third of the total number of members. As WDA currently has 17 Board members, the quorum will thus be 6.
c. Finally, there are two statutory boards, namely the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and the People’s Association (PA), whose statutes currently provide for a specific number of Board members. ISEAS’s Board size is currently fixed at 22, and so its quorum will be increased from 7 to 8 in line with the new requirement. As for the People’s Association, its statute currently stipulates a Board size of 14. With the amendment, there will be a quorum of 5 members.
10 Mr Speaker, Sir, this Bill recognizes what has been the general practice amongst most of our statutory boards. Instituting a formal quorum requirement will enhance standards, and reflect good governance in the Public Service as a whole.
11 Sir, I beg to move.