Nature of Singapore Town Councils must be defined

Nature of Singapore Town Councils must be defined

Summary: Is a Town Council considered a government body in Singapore? This question has been hotly debated on social media networks and is of significant legal importance.

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Singapore's Ministry of National Development has been instructed to look into corporate governance and the protection of public funds in Town Councils, which are autonomous bodies introduced in 1989 by an Act of Parliament, funded by government monies, and run by elected politicians.

There is, however, an important question that needs to be answered, and where divergent views from politicians have emerged--which is whether such Town Councils are government entities or not.

Town Councils are similar to the municipal boroughs, rural districts, and city councils of the United Kingdom, run by members from the elected political parties. So questions regarding the actions of Town Councils brought up by political players will almost certainly have a political slant to it.

At this point in time, there are indicators to point either way--that Town Councils could be government or political entities. However, I should point out that there are other important legal consequences whether a Town Council is deemed a government entity or not.

Government copyright is a specific right given to the government for work made under its direction or control, and may be used in service of the government. Some countries, notably the United States, do not have such a wide notion of government copyright. Further, a government dealing with copyright enjoys special provisions under section 198 of the Copyright Act, including compulsory licensing and defences, and an exemption from Part XIII, which deals with rights management information.

The Singapore government also enjoys an exemption from Parts III to VI of the new Personal Data Protection Act. Therefore, a Town Council that is a government entity would automatically be exempted from most of the provisions relating to the use, collection, and disclosure of personal data. (It would presumably be bound by internal government rules on data protection).

It is hoped that with the review, and perhaps clarification, to follow in the coming days, this issue on the nature of the Town Council will answer many of these questions.

Topics: Legal, Singapore, IT Policies

Bryan Tan

About Bryan Tan

Bryan is Pinsent Masons's technology media and telecommunications partner in Singapore and has practised since 1997. He advises on contracting and risk management in the areas of information systems and telecommunications, including intellectual property, data data privacy, e-commerce, cloud computing, and sourcing. He also has advised 10 different governments on e-commerce law.

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