Forum letter reply - Giving red packets: Each case assessed on its merits

CPIB's Reply
Giving red packets: Each case assessed on its merits (The Straits Times, 11 February 2019)

We thank Dr Ho Ting Fei for her letter (Red packets often given as a show of thanks, Feb 7). The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) is unable to comment on the case that the writer referred to in her letter as investigations are ongoing. However, we wish to highlight that each case is assessed on its merits to determine if it is a case of corruption. A gift given innocently and without any corrupt intention is not considered corruption. However, if a gift is given or received with a view to secure or to reciprocate with, for example, an unfair advantage, it may constitute corruption.

We assure the public that the CPIB evaluates all complaints and information it receives seriously - regardless of the value of gratification involved - in order to determine whether corruption offences are made out under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Ms Clare Tan
Senior Assistant Director (Corporate Relations)
Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau



Forum Letter
Red packets often given as a show of thanks (The Straits Times, 7 February 2019)


It is puzzling why workers who accept gifts in cash or red packets from bereaved families at the Mandai Crematorium warrant investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (Workers at crematorium in trouble over red packets; Feb 2).

Handling funerals and cremation services is not something many would like to do, and such jobs are of the lowest preference for many people. Some consider such jobs inauspicious.

So it is natural and culturally acceptable for families to express their thanks - and some believe as a gesture to dispel any bad luck - to the workers by giving them gifts of cash or red packets. It is a common practice that has gone on for awhile - equivalent to giving a tip for good service.

After all, how much do these workers earn? How many funerals can they handle a day? Can giving them such gifts really lead to favours of faster cremation or better funeral services in the future for the same family? What kind of inappropriate or illegal benefits can these workers get out of a few dollars in gifts?

To assume acceptance of such gifts as corrupt or criminal does not make sense. In our society, many are struggling to earn a living. There are many more in the community doing lowly jobs. Many elderly folk are cleaning tables, washing toilets, working in the sun and rain for enough money to feed themselves and their families. Is it wrong for them to accept tips? Will the public get into trouble with the law for giving such tips and gifts?

Let us not misinterpret actions that are merely gestures of thanks and appreciation. Such actions happen daily and in many places because people have a sense of gratitude and compassion towards those who provide needed services and do a job that many others would rather not do.

Ho Ting Fei (Dr)

Last updated: 13 Feb 2019