Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Monday (22 Feb) said the Government has issued directions for “immediate follow-up” after it was revealed that parts of the Kranji woodland in northwestern Singapore had been “erroneously” cleared for redevelopment.
As Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, Mr Chan said that he has instructed all agencies responsible for land clearance projects to promptly carry out checks on project supervision and implementation processes to “avoid any repeat of the mistakes made”.
“The public service will learn from this and improve,” he told reporters in a media briefing today.
Mr Chan acknowledged: “It is clear to us that there were gaps in the way that the project was managed and supervised, and that we must do better.”
In light of public criticism, JTC Corporation said it discovered on 13 Jan that its contractor had “erroneously” begun clearing some of these specific plots of land prematurely in December last year.
JTC, a statutory board, said that these plots of land were earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park (AFIP), which is part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District (SKED).
A stern warning has since been issued to the contractor, as the land was cleared before the completion of the Biodiversity Baseline Study and an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan (EMMP) for specified plots of land within the area.
JTC’s contractor Huationg said it has complied with JTC’s instruction to stop all clearing works.
“We apologise for the erroneous clearing of land and are working with JTC on ongoing investigations to determine the cause of this lapse, and to prevent future occurrences,” said Huationg.
While JTC said that the land clearance was only carried out in December last year, satellite images revealed that work at the Kranji woodland had commenced since March last year.
Mr Chan said that both JTC and the National Parks Board (NParks) will investigate the site clearance at the Kranji woodland, adding that JTC will also be carrying out an internal review to check if public officers and private contractors have abided by due processes.
The internal review will also entail looking at how JTC can “better supervise” agencies and Qualified Personnel — the latter of which are involved in construction project management — as they execute the project.
Mr Chan also noted that NParks will assess the clearance to examine if there are breaches to the Parks and Trees Act and Wildlife Act.
The minister added that Permanent Secretary for Defence Development Joseph Leong, who was not directly involved with the land clearance, will be tasked with leading a review with the aim of gathering “learning points” for project management, supervision, execution and inter-agency coordination.
Mr Leong will also be able to obtain the public, private and people sectors’ views throughout the review process, said Mr Chan.
The Government, he stressed, will not comment further on the ongoing investigations to avoid prejudicing the outcome.
In March last year, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Koh Poh Koon told Parliament that the Government is “working with both local and overseas industry players to develop this first phase of the park, which will be ready from the 2nd quarter of 2021, with potential for future expansion depending on demand”.
Responding to Parliamentary questions from Members of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa and Foo Mee Har during the committee of supply debate regarding how the Government will support the development of emerging sectors, Dr Koh said that AFIP will be “ready to welcome companies by the first half” of 2021.