SMRT demotes chief operating officer Alvin Kek after drink-driving conviction

Alvin Kek, 51, was chief operating officer of SMRT Trains when he was caught for driving while intoxicated in April. In June, he was convicted, and jailed for two weeks.
Alvin Kek, 51, was chief operating officer of SMRT Trains when he was caught for driving while intoxicated in April. In June, he was convicted, and jailed for two weeks.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Rail operator SMRT has demoted a senior management executive after he was convicted of drink-driving .

Alvin Kek, 51, was chief operating officer of SMRT Trains when he was caught for driving while intoxicated in April. In June, he was convicted, and jailed for two weeks. He was also fined $4,000, and disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for three years.

At the time, SMRT said it had suspended Mr Kek, who had a similar conviction in 2004.

In an e-mail sent to staff on Monday (July 16), SMRT announced that Mr Kek will be "demoted... and re-designated" as senior vice-president of rail operations. He will also forfeit his FY19 annual bonus.

SMRT employees The Straits Times spoke to were surprised that the company was retaining Mr Kek's services. But human resource practitioners said it was not uncommon for corporations to give valued employees a second chance.

Mr David Leong, managing director of PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said: "Alvin Kek's offence was a personal indiscretion, and he was imprisoned as a result.

"From the HR perspective, though his offence did not compromise his performance of his role then, it was at the expense of safety considerations - which is a key and important part of his business operations. This is akin to not walking the talk."

But Mr Leong noted that Mr Kek's personal lapses were unlikely to affect his ability to function professionally. "For SMRT to take him back, although with demotion, would mean that his skills and area of work are still pertinent," he said.

 
 

Commenting on its decision to keep Mr Kek employed, SMRT said: "SMRT takes a serious view of employees' conduct and actions which adversely affect the company's interests and reputation, regardless of whether this occurs in the course of work or otherwise.

"SMRT notes that Alvin has shown remorse for his actions and apologised to the management and staff for his lapse in judgement at a recent staff town hall. He also penned a letter of apology to take full responsibility for his personal misconduct.

"Notwithstanding that this is a personal misjudgement with no safety impact to operations, Alvin has been severely disciplined and demoted by job grade with a corresponding pay cut. His entire annual bonus will also be forfeited. He has been counselled and warned that he will be dismissed if there is any further misconduct."

Mr Kek joined SMRT in 2013, and was one of four former senior military men hired by outgoing chief executive Desmond Kuek that year.

Before he joined SMRT, Mr Kek spent 14 years with the Singapore Armed Forces, where he was a colonel and a chief engineer officer.

The Straits Times has asked the Land Transport Authority and the National Transport Workers' Union for comment.

Mr Kek was unreachable for comment.