More complaints against school bus firm as new school year begins

NEW OPERATOR HIRED: Red Swastika School hired Goh Transport after terminating its contract with Sindoz Group for unsatisfactory service.
NEW OPERATOR HIRED: Red Swastika School hired Goh Transport after terminating its contract with Sindoz Group for unsatisfactory service.ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH

3 pre-schools say Sindoz Group failed to deliver promised services

SINGAPORE - Three more schools have come forward to say that the school bus company that had its contract with two primary schools terminated just as the new school year began had also failed to deliver transport services promised to them.

The Straits Times reported on Saturday that Red Swastika School and Coral Primary had ended contracts with Sindoz Group after finding its services unsatisfactory. Three pre-schools have since told The Straits Times they had paid Sindoz deposits ranging from $3,000 to $7,000 for transport services for this year but were left in the lurch after its owner, known to them as Mr Andy Lee, stopped responding to phone calls after collecting their money.

In all, Sindoz had collected at least $50,000 in bus fees from the five schools. At least 200 Red Swastika pupils were affected.

Mrs Margaret Sim, administrator at ELF Preschool, said she had paid Sindoz $3,600 to secure transport services for the school for this year. But she said after she gave him a cheque, Mr Lee did not answer calls and took hours to reply to text messages.

The agreement was for Mr Lee to commence bus services for the pre-school on Dec 26.

"But even as the date drew nearer, he still did not call me to finalise details of the arrangement, despite us calling and messaging him every other day," she said.

When she asked to end the contract and for a refund, Mr Lee sent her a message. "He said I was breaching the contract and that he would seek legal action against the pre-school," she said.

Another pre-school, Two By Two Schoolhouse, said Mr Lee gave "very bad service" when he was hired as a bus driver last year. "Parents complained that he sped, was always using the phone while driving, and he would stop the bus by the side of the road to go for a smoke with the children still inside," said its director Li-anne Sia, 38, who terminated his services last month. The third pre-school declined to be named.

When contacted yesterday, an agitated-sounding Mr Lee said he did not intend to refund the preschools: "They took the contracts too lightly and terminated (my services) without giving me proper notice. It's a breach of the contract."

Former Sindoz employees contacted The Straits Times to complain about Mr Lee.

Mr Mohamed Faris, 40, was hired by Mr Lee last November as an operations executive and helped to collect bus fees from the parents of Red Swastika pupils.

Mr Faris, who did not receive his letter of appointment and was asked by Mr Lee to leave last month, said he had never been to Mr Lee's office and never seen his fleet of buses.

Receipts seen by The Straits Times showed that parents at Red Swastika had paid two months in bus fees in November to Sindoz Group, ranging from $160 to $600.

Mr Lee had earlier said his staff had "absconded" with money but Mr Faris said: "I gave all the money I collected to him."

Mr Nor Esmady Jamil, 39, who was employed by Mr Lee in 2013 as a bus driver, said he left after two weeks as he was not paid.

Mr Esmady said Mr Lee was known in 2013 under a different first name "Ady" to schools and parents then, and was operating under a company named East Coast Transport. A check showed Sindoz Group was incorporated in 2008, with Mr Adrian Lee Chong Boon and Mr Lee Phek Guan listed as directors.

Yesterday, Mr Lee said he was neither of the men. When asked who the two directors were, he said: "I'm now in charge of Sindoz and I'm the director... I don't owe you an explanation."

leepearl@sph.com.sg