Former NParks officer fined $5,000

SINGAPORE - Former National Parks Board (NParks) assistant director Bernard Lim Yong Soon was fined $5,000 and sacked yesterday.

But he appeared to smile in relief when he learnt he had escaped a jail term for lying to auditors over a $57,200 bicycle deal.

The 42-year-old had tipped off the owner of Bikehop, a bicycle retailer, about an upcoming tender he was in charge of to help the man. As a result, the company put in the sole, successful bid to supply 26 foldable Brompton bikes to NParks in January 2012.

Afraid of being discovered after the deal came under public scrutiny over the $2,200 cost of each bicycle, Lim lied to the Ministry of National Development during an audit that year.

He said he first met Bikehop's Mr Lawrence Lim Chun How in March, after the tender had been awarded, when in fact the duo had met at a cycling event at least five months earlier - before the tender was called. Bikehop's Mr Lim, however, came clean to auditors after lying initially.

Lim, who was convicted on May 29, was yesterday given the maximum fine by a district court for the offence.

While NParks announced yesterday that he had been dismissed with immediate effect, he was not put in prison as the prosecution had hoped. He could have been jailed for up to a year.

District Judge Marvin Bay noted that Lim's conviction was not for corruption, but for making a false statement to public servants. His conduct had not been as bad as that seen in other lying cases which resulted in jail, he said.

"Notwithstanding this, I must agree... that the court must take a serious view where an attempt is made to subvert the procurement process and the situation(is) compounded by a protracted attempt to conceal the relationship," said the judge as he imposed the fine.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy said that Lim had acted dishonestly and tried to manipulate the system.

Lim's lawyer Lawrence Ang, however, said he had spent 14 years in the public service before eventually joining NParks in 2009, and had acted "wholly out of character".

Both sides have 14 days to file an appeal.

Although convicted of lying, Lim was acquitted of instigating Mr Lim to perpetuate the lie, after the court found the latter had more likely acted out of personal anxiety to keep their stories consistent.

This article was published on June 11 in The Straits Times.

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