by Vincent Low
Minister Ong Ye Kung was the Principal Private Secretary to Singapore's then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong from 2002 to 2004. He then became the Chief Executive of Workforce Development Agency (WDA, now known as Workforce Singapore) and following that, the Assistant Secretary-General of NTUC.
In 2011 General Election, Ong contested as part of the 5-member People's Action Party team headed by then-Minister George Yeo in the Aljunied GRC but was defeated by the team from Workers' Party.
In 2015 GE (11 Sep), Ong stood in the election again but this time contesting as a PAP candidate in the "safer" Sembawang GRC. His team won and he finally got a chance to enter politics to become a Cabinet Minister. And now, according to mainstream media, he is seen as one of the 3 leading contenders for the new PM post.
Coincidentally, 3 weeks (2 Oct 2015) after Ong won the election, his wife Diana Kuik Sin Leng resigned from the Board of Directors of then public listed company Sim Lian Group (it was privatised and delisted from SGX in 2016).
Sim Lian essentially belongs to the Kuik family and Mdm Kuik was the Executive Director of Sim Lian. She is the daughter of Kuik Ah
However, according to an ST interview with Ong last year, his wife still "works for her family business".
Sim Lian is the first private developer to build HDB DBSS housing
According to its web page, Sim Lian started out as a construction company and later ventured into property developments. It became the first private developer in Singapore to embark on the pilot HDB’s Design, Build & Sell Scheme (DBSS), developing The [email protected]
In 2011, Sim Lian launched another DBSS project, Centrale 8, also at Tampines with a ridiculous price tag of $880,000 for a five-room unit. After a public outcry, it lowered the price by more than $100K to $778,000.
Then in 2015 when the residents finally collected the keys to their units at Centrale 8, another public outcry ensued over the many defects found in them. The residents complained publicly that "inferior quality of materials" had been used in the construction of the units.
As a result, residents from 400 out of the total 708 units signed a petition to Tampines MPs calling for compensation and the extension of the one-year warranty period for Sim Lian to rectify the defects. Then Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and an MP of Tampines had no choice but to form a special task force to help look into the residents' complaints against the company owned by the family of Ong's wife.
Conflict of interests
According to Sim Lian’s old annual reports, Dr Sim Loo Lee has been a board director of Sim Lian Group since 2003. She also owns shares in the company. And according to the HDB website, Dr Sim was appointed to the HDB Board in 2005.
The HDB’s Annual Report 2008/2009 (i.e. for the Financial Year to 31 Mar 2009) listed Dr Sim as a director. But she was not listed in HDB’s Annual Report 2009/2010. This means Dr Sim stepped down as a director from HDB sometime in 2009.
Hence, from 2005 to 2009, we find that Dr Sim was actually sitting on the board of Sim Lian as well as HDB.
The DBSS scheme was first proposed by HDB in 2005 and the first pilot DBSS site tender was launched that year. HDB later revealed that Sim Lian would build the very first DBSS flats at Tampines - The [email protected]
It’s interesting to note that the Govt did not consider the potential conflict of interests when it invited a board director of a developer to also sit on the board of HDB, considering that HDB tenders out parcels of public land to developers from time to time.
In any case, assuming Ong becomes the PM one day and his wife still works for her family property company Sim Lian, it's not known if there would be a potential conflict of interests since sensitive land or financing policy could be leaked to his wife at home after Ong comes back from work.