Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Worth Applauding

In the past year, several civil servants have been in court on various charges of cheating and misappropriation of funds. Arguably the most infamous of who was Liew Chee Meng. A clerical officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), he faced 455 charges of cheating the government up to $600,000.

Now it seems there’s another case coming up.

Media reports said that the Ministry of National Development (MND) has suspended a National Parks (NParks) officer responsible for purchasing 26 foldable Brompton bicycles worth a total of $57,200. Bought to enhance work productivity of NParks officers, the bikes were worth $2,200 each and ever since the purchase came to light, the Singapore public has been questioning the need for bicycles worth over $2,000 each.

The suspension came as a surprise as Minister Khaw Boon Wan had just defended the purchase on 4 July on his blog and even called for an audit to be carried out to prove that everything was in order. However the audit uncovered discrepancies, including the fact that the procurement period lasts only 3 days, instead of the standard tender time of 14 days and that the tender was called during Chinese New Year where most companies were closed for Lunar New Year.

Now some people on the internet are saying Mr. Khaw has egg on his face as he had defended the purchase and was the one who called for an audit. I respectfully disagree.

Mr. Khaw clearly believed that there was nothing wrong with the purchase. If he did, he would never have called for the audit. Also the entry on his blog that defended the purchase was titled "Value for Money". Ironic, I know but it just prove the fact that Mr. Khaw firmly believed that there was no problem with the purchase.

The audit was called and they found a problem. Did they sweep it under the rug to save face? Did they pretend that there was no problem with the purchase? No! They did an audit, found a problem and immediately took action.

I applaud the MND, NParks and Mr. Khaw on having the courage to take immediate action against the officer despite the embarrassment and questions that would arise from it. This is an action that Singaporeans should get behind as it proves that the Singapore government is actually doing its job. It prove that there was an actual audit done, and that a government agency and their minister are not too proud to admit they are wrong and immediately rectify a problem.

So instead of throwing brickbats at MND and Mr. Khaw, Singaporeans should applaud them. To me, they did something admirable here.


Anonymous said...

KBW has no choice but to call an audit because of the strong internet buzz questioning the deal. Netizens in Hardwarezone and various blogs took the trouble to expose the glaring facts that the tender specifications and tendering process had been rigged.

Imagine if everyone accepted the minister's explanation and moved on. Singaporeans will be none the wiser and the culprits would be laughing all the way to the banks.

KBW had been too quick to defend his staff; and this episode will be a good personal lesson for the minister if and when similar situations occur in future.

Anonymous said...

If it had been the other way, an ordinary person had said that he clearly believed there was something wrong and couldn't prove it or it turned out otherwise, that person would be hauled up to court or sued for defamation. In this case, there are no laws against anybody who believed there was nothing wrong and defended the case when it turned out that there is something wrong. But surely the minimum is an apology. An unreserved apology. Something along the line..."I was wrong. I didn't get my facts right.". No ifs, no buts, no "it has happened, what can we do, let's move on".

Boon Wan, you know what to do.

Warren, first page of Straits Times please.

Anonymous said...

You got it wrong in this case.

KBW is politically shrewd. Do you notice that whenever there's good news to announce, it comes out through his blog? Chance of balloting success increases .. queue getting shorter .. all these go through his blog. On the other hand, bad news are announced by the ministry. So he's taking the credit wherever possible.

In this case, it is politically shrewd that MND makes sure to say KBW ordered an internal audit. This fools some people into thinking that this guy is really on the ball and really open about such things.

But the facts are :

1) The issue first exploded on the Net and citizens wrote in to MSM questioning the extravagant purchase.

2) KBW did a cursory investigation. He was "satisfied" with the explanation and even blogged about it. See, I'm Mr. On-the-ball.

3) Not sure if many people realised this .. a few days later, on the, someone posted a VERY DETAILED analysis of the whole saga. Right down to the actual tender notice, the suspicious nature of the specifications in the tender notice, the timing of the tender notice and even investigative background into the supplier, right down to the registered address (turned out to be a residential address) etc. It was so detailed and the issue erupted again on the Net. There's overwheming evidence that something is wrong here.

4) KBW happened to be travelling to China at that time. He was probably told about the latest development, and hence did the smart thing - kept quiet - and quietly ordered an internal audit.

5) The internal audit validated all that the detailed report alleged in

Once you understand the sequence of events, and see how KBW angles himself with each twist and turn, you really take your hat and salute him for his political instincts.

But giving him credit where credit is due ?? That's undeserving.

Its also under KBW's watch as Health Minister that the shortage of hospital beds originated. Remember, Singapore was turning on the tap bringing in floods of foreigners in the last 5 years. This strained our infrastructure .. including hospitals. Patients have to be bedded in the corridors. If there's foresight, more hospitals could have been built earlier. He didn't. This is just one example.

Ghost said...

Any apology will need to wait till after the trail, if there's one. Remember, it's only been 2 weeks. Also what's wrong with being shrewd?
The man is a politician. He better be shrewd; he is one of Singapore's leaders. I, for one, have no interest in my coutry's leaders being stupid.
As for the "detailed" post on hardware zone? Let's admit it, this was an inside job. Someone from either the MND or the NParks was the guy who posted the "analysis". If you are not a guy inside, you would not have known about the details of the tender. Does anyone truly thinks KBW knew about the details of every tender in MND?
The man called for the audit and took action on the results. To me, that's great!

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Khaw clearly believed that there was nothing wrong with the purchase. If he did, he would never have called for the audit."

I am not quite sure I understand you. If he clearly believed that there was nothing wrong with the purchase, then WHY would he call for an audit. An audit is called because someone feels that something is amiss.

Kaffein said...

Awww... c'mon. Give credit where it is due.

It WAS the online hardwarezone person who published a very DETAILED chronological trace of how the whole tender was a farce. 5 days to submit a proposal to tender including weekend and CNY? You must be joking when you applaud KBW.

In fact I think he shot himself in the foot when he was 'satisfied'. Instead he should be thanking the public who did the due diligence in bringing this up and he should reply that an investigation is on its way.

Now he probably pissed himself wet for claiming he was 'satisfied'. Please give credit where it is due. In no way, KBW should be praised.


Ghost said...

To Kaffein,
Dude, you got the timeline wrong. The "detailed" post on hardware zone was posted after Mr. Khaw blog entry. He called for the audit to prove there was nothing to hide. When the audit found something amiss, he took action. What's wrong with any of that?