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Singapore

Couple sentenced for cheating MHA into awarding them S$165,000 in building contracts with fake quotations

Couple sentenced for cheating MHA into awarding them S$165,000 in building contracts with fake quotations

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: A man and his wife who cheated the Ministry of Home Affairs into awarding their company S$165,000 in construction projects over about three years by submitting fake quotations were sentenced in court on Friday (Oct 29).

Cheow Boon Peng, 43, was given 19 months' jail as the mastermind of the scheme, while his wife Kuan Pooi Yee, 37, was given a fine of S$15,000.

Cheow had pleaded guilty midway through a trial to 10 charges of cheating, with another 52 charges taken into consideration. His wife admitted to three cheating charges, with another 59 charges considered in sentencing.

The couple voluntarily made a donation of S$165,000 to three charities to disgorge the revenues earned from the 62 projects they were fraudulently awarded.

In sentencing, District Judge Marvin Bay noted the defence's arguments that the couple's company Buildforms Construction had satisfactorily performed the contracted works.

However, the fact that the couple had submitted fictitious bids by their "competitors" to ensure they always had the lowest bid meant that they had "effectively locked MHA into a closed market of just one party".

Cheow was the general manager of Buildforms Construction, a company providing works in renovations, steel, wood and plumbing, while his wife was a director.

Buildforms was the sole subcontractor for Logistics Construction for its project with MHA. Logistics Construction entered into a contract with MHA in December 2011 for the maintenance, additions and alterations of building works at MHA's west zone properties.

The MHA departments in the west zone include: The Singapore Police Force, the Home Team Academy, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

Logistics Construction subcontracted all its rights and obligations under the MHA contract to Buildforms, and Buildforms was obliged to source for and submit at least three quotations by three independent companies.

Initially, Cheow and his wife tried to obtain these genuine quotations, but found that the other subcontractors did not always respond. In January 2012, Cheow concocted a plan to prepare fictitious quotations of other companies to be submitted together with Buildforms'.

He told his wife about it and she agreed, and he taught her how to prepare the fake quotations that would always have higher prices than their own company.

They used the letterheads of three companies and taught administrative staff how to prepare the fake quotations.

Court documents did not indicate how the offences were uncovered.

SERIOUS FRAUD AGAINST A GOVERNMENT MINISTRY: PROSECUTORS 

Deputy Public Prosecutors Edwin Soh, Koh Mun Keong and Michelle Tay sought 23 months' jail for Cheow and a S$15,000 fine for Kuan, calling it a case of "serious fraud against a Government ministry" perpetrated over almost three years.

They said the rationale for requiring three quotations was to ensure transparency and open competition in the procurement process, so that MHA would obtain the works at the best value for money.

By the couple's acts, the relevant MHA department was prevented from making a proper and reliable assessment of whether the works awarded were the best value for money, said the prosecutors.

Judge Bay agreed that the offending was a "frustration of the procurement process". The rationale for requiring three quotations was to ensure transparency and open competition, with an assurance that MHA would obtain works at the best value for money, he said, adding that "it would be expected that there would be profound disquiet by citizen taxpayers if this were not the case".

He accepted that Kuan was less culpable, but still played a role in instructing staff on how to perpetrate the forgeries.

Source: CNA/ll(rw)

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