Legal letters issued to 2 who made corruption claims against Josephine Teo, husband over Covid-19 care facilities

Surbana Jurong developed Singapore's first large-scale community care facility at Singapore Expo. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Allegations of her and her husband's profiteering and corruption in relation to the development of the Covid-19 community care facilities (CCF) such as the one by Surbana Jurong at Singapore Expo are "untrue, scurrilous and completely baseless", said Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo.

A statement issued on Wednesday (May 20) by law firm Allen & Gledhill, on behalf of Mrs Teo, said that Surbana Jurong dealt directly with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of National Development (MND) on the projects.

"Neither my spouse nor I have any involvement with the commissioning of these projects or the monetary transactions," she said, in response to several posts circulating on social media and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp that alleged conflicts of interest in Surbana Jurong's development of the Singapore Expo facilities.

One such post concerned how Mrs Teo's husband, Mr Teo Eng Cheong, is the international chief executive in charge of Singapore, South-east Asia and North Asia at Surbana Jurong.

Other posts questioned how the decision to involve Surbana Jurong was made, while noting that Members of Parliament Desmond Choo and Yaacob Ibrahim are Surbana Jurong board members.

Mrs Teo also noted Surbana Jurong's statement issued on Tuesday (May 19), which said: "In service of the community, we will continue to provide our expertise to projects related to managing the Covid-19 crisis on a cost-recovery basis."

Accusations of profiteering and corruption are therefore unfounded, she said.

The lawyers for Mrs Teo have issued formal letters of demand to two persons who made the allegations - Mr Jolovan Wham and Mr Donald Liew - requiring these allegations to be withdrawn.

Mrs Teo added: "I understand that I am legally entitled to substantial damages for these serious and baseless allegations. However, I do not intend to pursue the matter further, or to claim damages, if the allegations are publicly withdrawn, and apologies given. This has been made clear in my lawyers' letters."

The letters also require the two persons to make a donation of $1,000 each to the Migrant Workers' Assistance Fund.

Late on Wednesday, Mr Liew posted an apology on his Facebook page and removed the posts where the allegations were made.

In a separate joint statement by MOH and MND on Wednesday, the two ministries said the Government had asked Singapore investment company Temasek to help set up a CCF for those with mild or no symptoms of Covid-19 and recovering patients. This was because Temasek had the necessary resources to do so at short notice through its subsidiaries.

"Temasek agreed to assist, and also agreed that the work done by Temasek and its linked companies, would be done at cost recovery basis, and in some cases, below cost. There will be no profit made by Temasek and its linked companies for the work done," the ministries said.

Temasek had asked other companies, including PSA International, Singapore Technologies Engineering and Sheares Healthcare to help. External vendors such as Parkway Pantai, Resorts World Sentosa and Certis Cisco were also roped in.

Reiterating the point made by Mrs Teo, the statement added that the Ministry of Manpower and Mrs Teo were not involved in the selection of Surbana Jurong, nor were they involved in the process of managing the project costs.

It was Temasek that had identified the Singapore Expo as a suitable venue and asked Surbana Jurong to convert the Expo into Singapore's first large-scale CCF, said MOH and MND on Wednesday.

They said that MOH worked with Temasek and the other entities on the healthcare requirements and needs for the CCF site.

Once these were confirmed, MND liaised with the entities on the payments for the development of the Singapore Expo CCF.

"This is because MND has also been liaising with other parties to pay for the provision of other facilities, like the dedicated Stay-Home Notice (SHN) facilities," they said, adding that Temasek did not charge management fees for all the work done, and only invoiced MND for expenses paid to third parties.

They also noted that Temasek-linked companies, including Surbana Jurong, will only charge for direct expenditure at cost.

Some aspects were charged at below normal cost. For example, SingEx Venues Pte Ltd, which manages Singapore Expo, will not charge the full capital expenditure cost, "since the Expo was not being used for normal business anyway", the ministries explained.

They added: "The Government accepts that legitimate questions can be raised about the spending, and is fully prepared to explain why and how money was spent.

"However the Government will respond firmly and appropriately to any scurrilous allegation of corruption."

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