Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why Workers' Party Silence on AHPETC May Not Mean Guilt

On 2 May 2017, PwC called for an inquiry into payments made to the former Managing Agent (MA) of the Workers’ Party (WP) Town Council - FM Solutions and Services (FMSS). According to the PwC report, the circumstances surrounding the selection of FMSS as the MA of AHTC show it was done by design, with FMSS assured of the job two months before it was formally appointed in August 2011. This revelation "put the propriety of all payments made under two managing contracts to FM Solutions and Services into question." PwC added that while its report does not look into potential criminal liability, "the circumstances may warrant further investigations by the relevant authorities as to the relevant potential offences". Since PwC’s call on 2 May 2017, apart from WP’s response to the Straits Times that they would “study the report”, there were no comments from AHTC on PwC's findings.

Silence May Not Mean Guilt

WP’s silence since the report is surprising, but it cannot be taken to imply guilt.

In crisis situations where there may be criminal or civil liabilities, legal advisors prefer that the organization say nothing. This is because any statement issued can have legal implications. Additionally, in the event that the case does go to the Court, a statement would reveal the likely defence strategy which will put the defence at a disadvantage. In Singapore, publicly speaking about a case pending before the Court is considered sub judice and carries with it serious legal penalties. In this instance, however, as the AGC has not filed any charges, the WP does have a window of opportunity to issue a statement if they choose to do so.

While remaining silent is the logical approach, the silence is deafening and accentuates the narrative that the WP is guilty.


WP response to PWC AHPETC report


Inoculation

What can an organization facing such a situation do?

Without seeking to influence Court proceedings, organizations caught in this limbo can work to inoculate themselves against the negative publicity. Conceptually, what this means is that the organization should push out information that contradicts what the crisis is implying. Using the example of an organization facing a lawsuit over an industrial accident, the organization should work to amplify their good safety record, their extensive safety programmes and safety awards that they have won. The intent of doing this is to "brand" the organization as one with a good safety record so that when stakeholders subsequently hear information that conflicts with this, they will discredit what the new information.

Summary

Putting aside partisan views about the WP, WP’s silence cannot be taken to imply guilt. For that, we will need to wait till the authorities conclude their investigations and the case decided in a court of law (if it goes that far).

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