Regulation of lobbying

General

Is lobbying self-regulated by the industry, or is it regulated by the government, legislature or an independent regulator? What are the regulator’s powers?

Lobbying activity in Singapore is indirectly regulated through the Political Donations Act (Chapter 236 2001 Rev Ed) (PDA), the PEA and the Presidential Elections Act, along with the Election Advertising Regulations under the PEA and the Presidential Elections Act.

The PDA provides for mandatory disclosure of donations, and seeks to prevent foreign influence on local politics by prohibiting foreign donations. Summarily, only Singaporean individuals and Singapore-controlled companies are permissible donors as defined by section 2 of the PDA. The government is also able to keep track of donations made by companies and individuals. Sections 12 and 18 of the PDA mandate political associations and candidates to file an annual donation report. See questions 17-20.

The PEA and the Presidential Elections Act provide for a limit on the time for campaigning and the limit on campaign expenses (see question 20).

In relation to a limit on the time for campaigning, where more than one candidate is nominated, the returning officer will adjourn the election to a date when a poll will be taken (ie, polling day). The returning officer will then issue the notice of contested elections giving:

  • the date of the poll (not earlier than the 10th day, and not later than the 56th day after publication of the notice);
  • the names of candidates, their symbols, proposers and seconders; and
  • the names and locations of all polling stations.

Candidates can start campaigning after the notice of contested election is issued, up to the start of cooling-off day (which is the day before polling day).

Definition

Is there a definition or other guidance as to what constitutes lobbying?

There is no legislation in Singapore that expressly defines lobbying and there is also no legislation expressly governing the conduct of lobbying. Financial contributions by Singapore-controlled companies towards local politics are governed by the PDA (see questions 17-20).

Registration and other disclosure

Is there voluntary or mandatory registration of lobbyists? How else is lobbying disclosed?

Apart from the mandatory annual donations report (see question 18), there is no mandatory registration or disclosure of lobbyists.

Activities subject to disclosure or registration

What communications must be disclosed or registered?

There is no legislation in Singapore mandating disclosure and registration of communications with officials of the legislature or the executive.

Entities and persons subject to lobbying rules

Which entities and persons are caught by the disclosure rules?

As stated in question 7, there are no lobbying rules and regulations in Singapore.

However, there are provisions generally prohibiting foreign influence on domestic politics. Examples of these prohibitions may be found in the Public Order Act (Chapter 257A, 2012 Rev Ed) (POA), the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (Chapter 206 2002 Rev Ed) (NPPA), the Broadcasting Act (Chapter 28 2012 Rev Ed), the PDA and the PEA.

Under the POA, the Commissioner of Police may refuse to grant a permit for a public assembly or procession if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that it is directed towards a political end and involves foreign entities and individuals (section 7(2)).

The NPPA and the Broadcasting Act empower the government to restrict and control the ownership of newspapers and broadcast media so as to prevent foreigners from manipulating Singapore media platforms to influence local politics.

Section 19(1) of the NPPA sets out that ministerial approval is required for a newspaper to receive funds directly or indirectly from a foreign source. Section 19(8) makes it an offence for any journalist to have received funds and failed to declare the receipt within seven days to the managing director of his or her newspaper.

Section 24(2) of the NPPA prohibits the sale, distribution or import or possession for sale or distribution of any declared foreign newspaper, unless ministerial approval is obtained. Section 25(1) also prohibits the reproduction for sale or distribution in Singapore of any copy of a declared foreign newspaper, unless ministerial approval is obtained.

Section 31(1) of the Broadcasting Act prohibits the rebroadcast of any declared foreign broadcasting service, unless ministerial approval is obtained. Section 43(1) prohibits the receipt of funds from any foreign source in order to finance a broadcasting service, unless consent from the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) is obtained. Section 44 also contains restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcasting companies.

Finally, the PEA prevents persons who have taken any oath or declaration or acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to any foreign power or state from voting in Singapore’s election process (section 6(1)). The PDA also prohibits election candidates and political parties from accepting foreign funding.

Lobbyist details

What information must be registered or otherwise disclosed regarding lobbyists and the entities and persons they act for ? Who has responsibility for registering the information?

There are no lobbying rules and regulations in Singapore.

Content of reports

When must reports on lobbying activities be submitted , and what must they include?

There are no lobbying rules and regulations in Singapore.

Financing of the registration regime

How is the registration system funded?

There are no lobbying rules and regulations in Singapore.

Public access to lobbying registers and reports

Is access to registry information and to reports available to the public?

There are no lobbying rules and regulations in Singapore.

Code of conduct

Is there a code of conduct that applies to lobbyists and their practice?

In a letter on Rules of Prudence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the People’s Action Party (PAP) issued to MPs on September 2015, the Prime Minister set out various guidelines that should be adhered to by PAP MPs in relation to lobbying and gifts.

PAP MPs are prohibited from lobbying any ministry or statutory board on behalf of anyone who is not their constituent or grass-roots activist. PAP MPs are not to use parliamentary questions as a means to lobby the government on behalf of their businesses or clients, and are not allowed to accept directorships that may result in them having to use their public position to champion the interests of the company, or to lobby the government on the company’s behalf.

PAP MPs are not to accept gifts that may place them under obligations in conflict with their public duties. If gifts are received from persons other than close personal friends or relatives, they must be declared to the Clerk of Parliament who will have them valued. If the PAP MP wishes to keep the gifts, he or she must pay the government for them at the valuation price.

Media

Are there restrictions in broadcast and press regulation that limit commercial interests’ ability to use the media to influence public policy outcomes?

Broadcast and press media in Singapore is subject to regulations and censorship by the IMDA.

Publishing and printing of newspapers in Singapore is governed by the NPPA. There can be no printing and publishing of newspapers unless the company is properly licensed as provided for by section 21(1) of the NPPA. Similarly, broadcasting in Singapore is governed by the Broadcasting Act and any broadcasting service must be properly licensed (section 3, Broadcasting Act). Licences are granted by the IMDA, and newspaper and broadcasting companies are subject to codes issued by the IMDA.

The codes restrict advertising content. For example, commercial interest groups may publish advertisements in the media, with the aim of influencing public policy. These advertisements are governed by the TV Advertising Code, which sets out restrictions on the type of advertisements allowed and the various subject matters that advertisers are prohibited from addressing in advertising.