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Accusations of corruption scurrilous, say MOH, MND

Accusations of corruption scurrilous, say MOH, MND

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 21 May 2020
Author: Grace Ho

Temasek and linked companies charging for direct expenditure at cost, or below cost.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has said allegations of profiteering and corruption by her husband and her in relation to the development of the community care facility (CCF) by Surbana Jurong at the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre are "untrue, scurrilous and completely baseless".

A statement issued yesterday by law firm Allen & Gledhill on her behalf said Surbana Jurong dealt directly with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of National Development (MND) on the projects.

"Neither my spouse nor I have any involvement with the commissioning of these projects or the monetary transactions," she said.

Mrs Teo was responding to several posts on social media and messaging platforms like WhatsApp that alleged conflicts of interest in Surbana Jurong's development of the Singapore Expo facilities.

One post concerned how Mrs Teo's husband, Mr Teo Eng Cheong, is the international chief executive for Singapore, South-east Asia and North Asia at Surbana Jurong.

Other posts questioned how the decision to involve Surbana Jurong was made, adding that Members of Parliament Desmond Choo and Yaacob Ibrahim are Surbana Jurong board members.

Mrs Teo's statement also noted a statement issued on Tuesday by Surbana Jurong that said: "In service of the community, we will continue to provide our expertise to projects related to managing the Covid-19 crisis on a cost-recovery basis."

Accusations of profiteering and corruption are, therefore, unfounded, the minister said.

Her lawyers have also issued letters of demand to two people who made the allegations, requiring them to withdraw them. The duo are activist Jolovan Wham and a person named Donald Liew.

Mrs Teo said: "I understand that I am legally entitled to substantial damages for these serious and baseless allegations.

"However, I do not intend to pursue the matter further, or to claim damages, if the allegations are publicly withdrawn, and apologies given. This has been made clear in my lawyers' letters."

The letters to the two people also require them to make a donation of $1,000 each to the Migrant Workers' Assistance Fund.

Separately, a joint statement by the Health and National Development ministries yesterday said the Government had asked Singapore investment company Temasek to help set up a CCF for those with mild or no symptoms of Covid-19, and for recovering patients.

This was because Temasek had the resources to do so at short notice through its subsidiaries.

The ministries said Temasek agreed to assist, and agreed that the work done by Temasek and its linked companies would be on a cost-recovery basis and, in some cases, below cost. "There will be no profit made by Temasek and its linked companies for the work done."

Temasek had asked other companies, including PSA International, Singapore Technologies Engineering and Sheares Healthcare to help. External vendors such as Parkway Pantai, Resorts World Sentosa and Certis were also roped in.

Reiterating Mrs Teo's point, the statement added that she and the Manpower Ministry were not involved in the selection of Surbana Jurong or the process of managing the project costs.

It was Temasek that had identified the Singapore Expo as a suitable site and asked Surbana Jurong to convert it into Singapore's first large-scale CCF, said the two ministries yesterday.

They also said MOH worked with Temasek and the other entities on healthcare requirements for the site. Once these were confirmed, MND liaised with the entities on payments for developing the CCF.

"This is because MND has also been liaising with other parties to pay for the provision of other facilities, like the dedicated stay-home notice facilities," they said, adding that Temasek did not charge management fees for all the work done, and charged MND only for expenses paid to third parties.

They also said that Temasek-linked companies, including Surbana Jurong, will charge only for direct expenditure at cost.

Some aspects were charged at below normal cost. For example, SingEx Venues, which manages Singapore Expo, will not charge the full capital expenditure cost "since the Expo was not being used for normal business anyway", the two ministries said.

They added: "The Government accepts that legitimate questions can be raised about the spending, and is fully prepared to explain why and how money was spent.

"However the Government will respond firmly and appropriately to any scurrilous allegation of corruption."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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