Speech by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Debt Collection Bill (Bill No. 18/2022)
Sir, this Bill empowers the MHA to regulate debt collection activities in Singapore and provide the Police with the necessary levers to stem problematic debt collection conduct.
I applaud MHA for proposing to institute upstream regulatory interventions to manage the disamenities from debt collection activities.
I also thank MHA for conducting a public consultation in June this year to gather public feedback in preparation for this Bill.
I have clarifications on three areas.
Qualifications of compliance officers
My first clarification relates to the qualifications of compliance officers.
The new section 4 provides for the appointment of compliance officers.
A compliance officer’s enforcement powers are significant. For instance, they can enter premises and question individuals, similar to police officers.
Given their significant powers and that they can be as young as 18 years old, it is important that compliance officers are fully ready for their role.
Can Minister share what qualifications, experience and training will be required for compliance officers?
Given that compliance officers have some powers similar to those of police officers, will they be required to follow rules similar to the procedural rules under the Police General Orders?
Protection of compliance officers
My second clarification relates to the protection of compliance officers.
Compliance officers are not public servants. This means that they are not protected by sections of the Penal Code that set out offences for obstructing public servants in discharging their public functions, for omitting to assist a public servant and for threatening injury to a public servant.
This lack of protection is despite the fact that compliance officers do exert enforcement powers markedly similar to public servants, as I previously noted. The occupational risks are thus similar.
Will the Ministry consider extending the Penal Code to protect compliance officers?
If not, how will it ensure that compliance officers are protected to the same extent as public servants when exercising similar powers?
Appointment of debt collectors
My third clarification relates to the appointment of individuals appointed as debt collectors.
Section 20(2) allows the Licensing Officer to decline to allow an individual to be appointed a debt collector if the individual is not a “fit and proper person” to be deployed as a debt collector.
Section 20(3) allows the Licensing Officer to consider any prescribed criteria and requirement. Section 20(4) goes even further in allowing the Licensing Officer to take into account “any other matter or evidence that may be relevant”.
These provisions are broad. Can Minister provide examples of what factors may be used to deem if someone is fit and proper to be deployed as a debt collector?
Can Minister also share if the approval to be deployed as a debt collector will be time limited and subject to renewal?
Notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.