HDB officer charged with breaching Official Secrets Act

HDB officer Ng Han Yuan is said to have given confidential information on an HDB project to an ST journalist.
HDB officer Ng Han Yuan is said to have given confidential information on an HDB project to an ST journalist.

A Housing Board officer was charged in court yesterday with breaching the Official Secrets Act (OSA) by giving confidential information to a reporter from The Straits Times.

According to court documents, Ng Han Yuan, 25, who works as an estate manager in the resale operations section, had in his possession information relating to an HDB project titled Streamlining Of Resale Transactions. Between May 31 and July 16, Ng is said to have communicated information on the project to ST journalist Janice Tai Jia Ling.

In a statement yesterday, the police said the HDB alerted them to the case on July 27.

It added: "This was after HDB had received media queries from an ST reporter on a new initiative, the HDB Resale Portal. The queries had contained information on the initiative which had not been made public at that point in time.

"Police investigations revealed that in May 2017, the HDB officer had shared confidential information with the ST reporter on the new HDB resale portal."

The police said that in July, Ms Tai approached several parties with inquiries relating to the confidential information.

For her actions, the police issued a stern warning to her.

They said: "The Government takes a serious view of the wrongful communication of confidential information, especially if the party involved is a public officer, and will not hesitate to take action."

Responding to queries from ST, the HDB said Ng has been suspended from his duties pending the outcome of the case. Its spokesman added: "HDB takes a serious view of any unauthorised disclosure of information. We will assess the situation and take appropriate disciplinary action based on the outcome of the court proceedings."

Yesterday, the court heard that Ng intends to plead guilty to his offence and will not be engaging a lawyer. He will be back in court on Dec 15.

Those convicted of an offence under the OSA can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $2,000.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Warren Fernandez, ST editor and editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, said: "The Straits Times wants to place on record its support for our colleague Janice Tai, who was doing her job as a reporter for the paper. She continues to be a valued member of the ST newsroom team."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'HDB officer charged with breaching Official Secrets Act'. Print Edition | Subscribe