ST Marine was involved in a corruption scandal in 2014 but still allowed to bid and win government tenders – why?

Back in 2017, former ST Marine group financial controller Ong Teck Liam as well as six other former ST Marine senior executives were convicted for corruption in a scandal that broke in 2014.

Ong had pleaded guilty to 10 charges of conspiring with four other senior executives the bribing employees of the ST Marine’s customers to secure their business. She was the last of the seven to be convicted. The bribes totalled S$48,887.

Also taken into consideration for sentencing were 108 other similar charges. Ong was ultimately fined S$300,000 for her role in what has become Singapore’s largest graft scandal.

According to court documents, at least S$24.9 million in bribes were paid out over 11 years, between 2000 and 2011, which were falsely claimed as entertainment expenses.

These bribes were made in exchange for ship repair contracts.

Ong, who worked at ST Marine from 2007 until she retired in 2012 had learnt that the practice of disguising these payments as entertainment expenses had been going on in the company for years and that the practice was approved by former ST Marine president See Leong Teck.

The finance department had even prepared instructions for staff on how to avoid detection when preparing these false claims.

Now, considering ST Marine was embroiled in scandal and that its senior officers were proven to be guilty of corruption and were charged in Court, why was ST Marine not barred from the government’s e-procurement portal, GeBiz?

According to the Defence Science & Technology Agency (DSTA) website, there are clear Defence Procurement guidelines which states that any company found guilty of corruption will be barred from obtained any new contracts or tenders from the government.

Screencap from DSTA website

If that’s the case, why was ST Marine even allowed on GeBiz in the first place where they were allowed to bid on a tender of significant value by the government?

ST Marine was awarded a government shipbuilding contract for the Police Coast Guard in July 2018 worth almost S$400 million. They had bid on the tender which was put out by the Ministry of Home Affairs in July 2017 and won the contract, beating out several established international shipbuilding companies.

This win is controversial within the industry not only because it clearly shows that ST Marine was not barred from GeBiz but also because the company is less experienced in supplying and maintaining the specific type of vessels that the tender required.

DSTA has yet to respond to TOC’s earlier query about the lapse in notification of award of contract to ST Marine.

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