SMRT demotes COO Alvin Kek convicted of drink driving

Mr Alvin Kek will be redesignated as senior vice-president of rail operations. He will also forfeit his 2019 annual bonus.
Mr Alvin Kek will be redesignated as senior vice-president of rail operations. He will also forfeit his 2019 annual bonus.

Rail operator SMRT has demoted a senior management executive who was convicted twice of drink driving.

Mr Alvin Kek, 51, was chief operations officer (COO) of SMRT Trains when he was caught driving while intoxicated in April.

Last month, 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.

When contacted then, SMRT said it had suspended Mr Kek, who had a similar conviction in 2004.

In an e-mail to staff yesterday, SMRT announced that Mr Kek will be "demoted... and redesignated" as senior vice-president of rail operations. He will also forfeit his annual bonus for financial year 2019.

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 human resource firm 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 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 in its employ, SMRT said it had taken action against him "notwithstanding that this is a personal misjudgment with no safety impact to operations".

It added: "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 judgment at a recent staff town hall. He also penned a letter of apology to take full responsibility for his personal misconduct...

"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 whom outgoing chief executive Desmond Kuek hired 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.

Mr Kek could not be reached for comment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'SMRT demotes COO convicted of drink driving'. Print Edition | Subscribe