Former hospital exec gets jail for seeking bribe

SINGAPORE - Less than a month after joining Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) as a deputy director, Peh Chew Seng offered to favour a contractor in its bid for a building project he was tasked to manage - in return for a bribe.

No money was received from the executive director of PBT Engineering and the lowest bid eventually won, but Peh's actions were exposed and he was reported to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

On Thursday, the 49-year-old remained expressionless in a district court as he was sentenced to six weeks in jail. He is appealing against the punishment as well as last month's conviction following a 20-day trial, and is out on bail that has been trebled to $15,000 in the light of the sentence.

District Judge Liew Thiam Leng on Thursday agreed with prosecutors that a jail term was appropriate. One factor he considered was that Peh's former employer provides medical services to the public.

Peh's crime related to a 2009 tender called by the hospital for the construction of a temporary office annex next to the hospital's main building. The contract was believed to be worth $17 million.

About a month after joining TTSH on probation as its deputy director (projects and development) in December 2008, Peh contacted Mr Sim Geok Soon, a close friend and executive director at PBT's parent company.

He told his friend that he had joined the hospital and was handling a "fast-paced" project, the court heard.

After Mr Sim confirmed that PBT would be interested in the project, Peh showed him around the project site and said he expected "something in return" if PBT were to win the tender.

The sum of money that was going to be involved has been disputed.

He later met Mr Sim and PBT executive director Eric Phua Boon Kin over lunch, where he briefed Mr Phua about the project. PBT then put in a bid for the tender.

After the tender closed on Feb 19, however, the firm's bid was only the seventh lowest of 10 received.

Shocked, Peh gave a series of instructions to the hospital's project consultant that would favour the firm.

He told the consultant to "find some reasons" to disqualify the lowest bid and proceed to the next stage of tender, and also mentioned some of the suggestions made by PBT during an earlier tender interview.

The consultant became suspicious and contacted Peh's colleagues. Peh resigned following an investigation by the hospital, his time spent there totalling only around two months.

Peh, who is currently said to be unemployed, could have been fined a maximum of $100,000 and/or jailed up to five years.

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