Director at centre of SingPost saga steps down

 People using the postal services at the Singapore Post branch in Raffles Place MRT on Sept 2, 2014.
People using the postal services at the Singapore Post branch in Raffles Place MRT on Sept 2, 2014.PHOTO: ST FILE

There was more upheaval at Singapore Post on Friday night as it announced that independent director Keith Tay will leave the board. This came a week after chairman Lim Ho Kee said he will step down and just a day after his intended replacement, Professor Low Teck Seng, said he had decided not to take the chairman's role after all.

Mr Tay has stepped down as chairman of the nominations committee with immediate effect and will not seek re-appointment at the annual general meeting (AGM) in July, SingPost said on Friday.

The move is to "facilitate a rigorous exercise to renew the board and build bench strength". Mr Zulkifli Baharudin takes over as chairman of the nominations committee.

"These changes pave the way for board renewal as SingPost embarks on its next leg of transformation and growth," said the company.

SingPost revealed last December that it had failed to properly disclose Mr Tay's interest in a 2014 acquisition. He is a shareholder and office holder at corporate finance adviser Stirling Coleman, which acted for the sellers in at least three SingPost acquisitions.

This has sparked concerns about the quality of corporate governance at the mainboard-listed company.

It recently appointed leadership firm Heidrick & Struggles as an independent consultant to undertake a corporate governance review.

PwC and Drew & Napier have also been appointed to carry out a special audit to look into the matter.

Mr Lim said on April 1 that he wanted to step down as chairman on May 10, when SingPost's full-year results are due to be announced. He will leave the board on July 14, the planned date of the AGM.

Prof Low was named Mr Lim's successor on April 1, but he declined the post on Thursday. He said in a statement that he opted not to take up the role after reflecting on his "principal commitment" to the National Research Foundation as its chief executive.

National University of Singapore Associate Professor Mak Yuen Teen, a corporate governance specialist who has been a vocal critic of SingPost's corporate governance, was earlier quoted as saying that he hoped Mr Tay would also step down.

Prof Mak on Friday welcomed Mr Tay's move, saying: "It solves part of the issue by allowing renewal and bringing on board other directors with relevant skills and experience. However, there is still the issue of accountability for what had transpired... I am still very interested in the outcome of the corporate governance review, and particularly the special audit."

By voluntarily stepping down, Mr Lim and Mr Tay will avoid the possible scenario of some shareholders proposing their removal at the upcoming AGM, Prof Mak added.

SingPost shares closed 1.5 cents up at $1.585 on Friday before the announcement was made.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'Director at centre of SingPost saga steps down'. Print Edition | Subscribe