Ex-SMRT employee who took at least $54,850 in bribes gets 21 months' jail

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
Jan 16, 2023

An SMRT Corporation assistant buyer accepted at least $54,850 in bribes from directors of three firms that were in the business of supplying spare parts to the transport provider.

Soh Choon Heng, who worked for SMRT from 2011 to 2020, took the monies in exchange for sharing with the trio confidential information involving quotations submitted by other companies.

The prosecution said that the three then directors – Yong Ming Jun, Wong King Mooi and Lee Won Jong – used the information to guide their own companies’ bids to SMRT.

On Monday, Soh, 45, was sentenced to 21 months’ jail after he pleaded guilty to three counts of corruption involving at least $33,500. This amount was paid over 13 occasions between 2017 and 2019. He also admitted to two forgery charges.

Eight other charges, including ones for graft linked to the remaining amount, were considered during sentencing.

Soh was also ordered to pay a penalty of $24,850 and will have to spend an additional eight weeks behind bars if he is unable to pay the amount. He has since voluntarily surrendered $30,000 to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

At the time of the offences, Yong, 40, was working at Euro Bremse (EB) while Wong, 48, was employed at CEE Technologies. Their cases are pending.

Lee was then working at Alturan, and court documents did not disclose the outcome of his case.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Louis Ngia said that as an assistant buyer, Soh was responsible for supporting SMRT’s procurement and sourcing activities. These included the procurement of parts for the company’s trains, buses and taxis.

The prosecutor told the court that the transport provider uses a system called “Ariba” to support its procurement process.

When SMRT requires procurement of items below $200,000, it will call for a request for quotation (RFQ) via closed invites.

After that, assistant buyers initiate what is referred to as a “sourcing event” within Ariba.

They source from relevant vendors quotations, which are then submitted by a stipulated date.

In early 2016, Soh told Yong that the latter’s firm was not awarded purchase orders in SMRT’s RFQ as the prices it quoted were not competitive.

DPP Ngia said: “The accused offered to provide Yong with the confidential information if Yong should ‘help’ him, which they both understood to mean that Yong should provide him with corrupt monetary gratifications.

“EB could use the confidential information to guide its RFQ bids, giving it an unfair advantage. Yong agreed.”

The prosecutor added that about once or twice a month on average between 2016 and 2020, Soh supplied Yong with confidential information regarding quotations from EB’s competitors for past RFQs. According to court documents, Soh obtained at least $6,000 in bribes from Yong over six occasions.

Around November 2017, EB was selected in SMRT’s RFQ and was awarded the purchase order for spare parts.

As part of Soh’s job scope, he had to draft a letter of award between SMRT and EB, and then route the document to SMRT’s senior category manager for the man’s approval and signature.

Soh, however, did not circulate the letter to the senior category manager after drafting it.

Instead, he cropped and affixed a digital copy of the man’s signature onto the document without the latter’s authorisation.

DPP Ngia said that Soh also committed graft-related offences involving Wong on three occasions in 2017, and four occasions in 2018 to obtain at least $27,500 in bribes in total.

In May 2018, SMRT granted an approval to award CEE with a one-year contract for the supply of train parts.

The prosecutor told the court: “The accused was beholden to Wong as a result of their corrupt arrangement, and wanted to ‘help’ Wong advance CEE’s business interests with SMRT... As such, the accused made a false document - a supply contract dated May 4, 2018.”

On this document, Soh falsely specified the contract as being for a two-year term, when in fact the contract awarded to CEE was for a one-year term.

After that, Soh affixed a digital image showing the signature of SMRT’s then-director of procurement without the man’s authorisation.

Soh’s employment with SMRT was terminated on April 27, 2020, following an internal audit.

His bail was set at $50,000 on Monday, and he is expected to surrender himself at the State Courts on Feb 10 to begin serving his jail sentence.

The Straits Times

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