Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 50/2017]
The cooperative movement in Singapore reached a significant milestone 2 years ago, celebrating its 90th birthday. There has been a steady increase in the number of cooperatives in Singapore serving a variety of needs – a strong recognition of the effectiveness of the cooperative business model. It is heartening to see members of the public coming together to support each other in a spirit of self-help and mutual assistance – and the government must do all it can to support this ecosystem. I support the Bill’s bid to enact tougher rules to ensure cooperatives – and the members and their funds – are not abused for personal benefit.
I would also like to commend clause 17 in the Bill for promoting inclusivity, by allowing groups such as the mentally disabled and younger people to be members of co-ops. As an entity addressing social needs, co-ops are well-placed to lead the way in demonstrating how doing good can also mean doing well.
Penalties for section 32C
Next, I refer to the new section 32C, which requires credit societies to inform the Registrar of any new developments or changed circumstances. However, the Bill does not specify any penalties for failing to do so. To ensure credit societies comply with these new rules, should we not also impose punitive measures?
Increased transparency for section 9A and 16BB
In addition, I would like to raise a point about the new section 9A, which allows the Registrar to modify the terms and conditions of registration of a society at any time. Similarly, the new section 16BB empowers the Registrar to modify terms and conditions for a non-credit society to become a credit society and vice versa. I understand that the Registrar must notify the society in writing informing them about the changes.
In line with the spirit of the Bill to increase transparency, could we also disclose this information to members of the co-op and even members of the public? Greater transparency on how co-ops are governed would be in line with the general objectives of this Bill.
Expanded powers of Registrar
I refer to clause 44 which empowers the Registrar or an authorised person to inspect documents and information. As with many of the recent Bills, we are providing extended powers usually reserved for the police – for example, to enter and search premises without warrant, take “any relevant thing” and retain if for as long as is deemed necessary. Clause 63 also makes it an offence for individuals who delay or obstruct the discharge of the Registrar’s duties. I wonder if these extended powers are necessary, and hope Minister can provide clarifications on why this is needed.
Sir, notwithstanding the above clarifications, I stand in support of this Bill.