The word “corruption” has its roots in the Latin word “corruptus” that means “to break” (see Colin Nicholls QC et al, Corruption and the Misuse of Public Office, (Oxford University Press, 2nd Ed, 2011) at p 1). This allusion to the “break of confidence” by agents or office holders pithily captures the corrosive effect that corruption has on all aspects of life and not only why it must unflinchingly be prevented and punished but also why, vitally, the exposure of its very existence anywhere must be encouraged. The website for the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau declares as follows:
The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 31October 2003. The Convention seeks to combat corruption by stipulating preventive measures, criminalising certain conduct (including acts of bribery), and requiring States Parties to provide mutual legal assistance to each other. Singapore takes a very serious view towards corruption. Much effort has been invested to ensure a low corruption rate in the public and private sectors. Singapore therefore strongly supports international efforts to fight corruption, and we demonstrated this support by becoming a signatory to the UNCAC on 11 November 2005. Singapore ratified the UNCAC on 6 Nov 2009.
Countries which have subscribed to the UNCAC agree to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the global fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation, and the prosecution of offenders. Over and above that they have implicitly accepted that as members of the international community they will work towards exposing corruption regardless of where it takes place. Whistle blowing and the reporting of corrupt activities by credible parties, therefore, should not be unnecessarily deterred by the courts, as such activities, given their surreptitious nature, are usually very difficult to detect. In fact, it should be reiterated that there is a compelling public interest consideration ever present in Singapore to encourage whistle blowing against corruption: under s 36 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241, 1993 Rev Ed) complaints made under the Act cannot be admitted as evidence in any civil or criminal proceedings, and no witness shall be obliged or permitted to disclose the name of the informer. The provision is a salutary reminder of the enlightened legislative approach that has been taken to coax the exposure of corrupt activities.
While senior officials in international organisations, such as sports bodies, may not be public officials in the traditional sense of that term, similar public interest considerations of accountability equally apply in ferreting out, exposing and punishing wrongdoings by them. These individuals have critical decision making roles which often have profound implications across borders that impact many facets of public and private activities in the political, commercial and social spheres. Corruption anywhere raises serious concerns as it inevitably undermines good governance. If occurring in international organisations, it would not only undermine good governance but also distort international competitiveness and subvert fair play. Certainly, corrupt practices in international football organisations ought not to be permitted to be spuriously cloaked by arid claims of confidentiality. It would be grotesque for a party implicated in corrupt activities to assert that the courts ought to defer to contractual arrangements importing confidence if those very arrangements are infected by sordid criminality. To adapt a well-known dictum, sunlight is the best disinfectant for corruption.
~ The Singapore Court of Appeal, in Dorsey James Michael v World Sport Group Pte Ltd ;