Adjunct prof Isabella Loh declared 'all possible conflict of interests' before research bid: NTU

NTU adjunct professor Isabella Loh, who is also chairman of the Singapore Environment Council. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has made clear that its adjunct professor Isabella Loh declared "all possible conflicts of interests" to the university before her name was included in a proposal submitted to the National Research Foundation (NRF) for research funding.

The university was responding to media queries following allegations that surfaced online this week claiming that Ms Loh did not reveal that she was an investor and advisor in Dearman, a global technology company cited in the proposal as being involved in the project.

A check on government tender website GEBiz showed that NTU was the sole bidder for the tender, and priced its proposal at $426,500.

"NTU has submitted a bid for the open tender by Energy and Environment Research Directorate under NRF for a study on cold economy. Ms Loh, an adjunct professor at NTU, had declared all possible conflicts of interest to NTU before her name was included in the proposal," said a university spokesman.

He added: "She is no longer an advisor to Dearman since June 2015 and is only a small shareholder of Dearman. The proposal is still under evaluation by the NRF."

According to initial bid documents, the $426,500 cost "will be mainly used to compensate for manpower as well as consultancy fees required by the data analysts and consultant that will be carrying out the data collection." The documents also stated that Dearman will be "providing pro bono work for the project which is envisaged to be needed".

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for Dearman said: "As it is publicly available information, we can confirm that Ms Loh has a small shareholding in Dearman - less than 0.5 per cent of the company. Ms Loh provided independent advisory services to Dearman for approximately six months, ending in June 2015. She currently holds no paid position with the company and is not an employee."

Ms Loh is also chairman of the non-government organisation Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

An SEC spokesman also said that its Board has reviewed the allegations made against its chairman, and "found no conflict on interest".

She said: "SEC is not a party to the research proposal (A Feasibility Study of the Economic Viability and Environmental Benefits of Managed "Cold Economy" for Singapore) that has been submitted by NTU to the NRF.

"Ms Loh was invited by NTU to be a part of this research proposal because of her previous experience as an advisor to Dearman Engine Company. The research proposal is still under consideration by the NRF."

An NRF spokesman confirmed this, saying: "In its proposed bid, Ms Loh, in her capacity as adjunct professor of NTU, was stated as one of the members of the NTU team. NTU also stated that it would sub-contract part of the study to Dearman, a UK-based company. We are currently in the process of evaluating the tender."

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