SINGAPORE - A technical officer with national water agency PUB abused his position and duped it into awarding 718 contracts worth almost $2 million to companies registered under his wife's name.
Mohamed Sa'ad Mohamed Ali, 43, who has been suspended from his duties since August 2012, was sentenced to three years and nine months' jail on Tuesday (Nov 27).
The father of five pleaded guilty to 113 cheating charges and two counts of dealing with the benefits of his criminal behaviour.
The court heard that more than 600 other charges for similar offences were considered during sentencing.
He decided to admit to his offences on the 10th day of his trial while he was being cross-examined in court.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Yonghui said that as a technical officer, Sa'ad was in charge of troubleshooting and maintaining mechanical equipment at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks.
He was also in charge of carrying out the procurement of items such as spare parts for the maintenance of the mechanical equipment at the waterworks.
In order to cheat PUB, he registered three sole proprietorships under his wife's name.
They were Hy-Tech Project Services, Hydro Mech Enterprise and Dynatic Technix Project.
He committed his offences between 2005 and 2012 by using the small value purchase (SVP) procurement process, the court heard.
DPP Chong told District Judge Terence Tay that when a purchase is initiated under SVP, Sa'ad was required to obtain three quotations from the market and put up a recommendation in a "quotation" form which supplier was to be awarded the contract.
The practice was for Sa'ad to recommend the cheapest supplier.
After submitting the completed form to an approving officer, PUB would generate a purchase order to be sent to the supplier that was awarded the contract once the approval was obtained.
Sa'ad provided three separate quotations from his wife's firms to ensure that the SVP contract would be awarded to one of them.
His wife's firms would then supply the goods and services to PUB.
In 2006, Sa'ad also started using fictitious quotations and cheated PUB into believing they were obtained from independent sources in the open market, when they were not.
DPP Chong said Sa'ad then used his ill-gotten gains to pay for items such as a car and repayments of a Housing Board mortgage loan.
The DPP also said that more than $460,000 had been seized from Sa'ad and this amount will be restituted to PUB.
According to an earlier report in The Straits Times, Sa'ad's offences came to light in 2012 when PUB's internal audit discovered anomalies in the small value purchases of mechanical equipment and general maintenance work at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks.
The matter was then reported to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in August that year.
PUB told The Straits Times on Tuesday that Sa'ad is now liable for dismissal from service.
It added that since the discovery of the cheating offences, PUB has reduced the number of small value purchases by 96 per cent.
A PUB spokesman said: "Procurement previously done through small value purchases has been combined into aggregated contracts which have to be awarded through open tender.
"The very small number of small value purchases that remains is now administered centrally by officers who have no involvement in operational duties.
"In addition, potential suppliers are generated randomly by the computer system, and the segregation of duties rigorously enforced. These measures serve to remove the opportunity for collusion and misrepresentation by any staff."
DPP Chong urged Judge Tay to sentence Sa'ad to a jail term of four years and six months, stressing that the offences involved "significant premeditation and planning".
Defence lawyer Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed pleaded for the court to not impose a lengthy jail sentence and added: "There is no complaint from PUB that payment was made for the spare parts and services... but were not supplied or rendered."
Sa'ad is now out on bail of $80,000 and will surrender himself at the State Courts on Dec 11 to begin serving his sentence.
Court documents did not state if Sa'ad's wife will be charged in court.