NKF CEO Edmund Kwok sacked over personal indiscretion involving male employee, police report filed

PHOTO: Berita Harian

INGAPORE - National Kidney Foundation (NKF) CEO Edmund Kwok was sacked due to a personal indiscretion involving a male employee, NKF said on Wednesday (Nov 16).

The employee complained to his supervisor last Monday (Nov 7), and the matter was brought up to the human resources department.

A meeting with the NKF board was held last Friday (Nov 11) night, said NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong at a press conference held hours after the foundation issued a statement announcing Mr Kwok's sacking.

A disciplinary hearing was convened by a three-man panel on Sunday (Nov 13). Mr Kwok admitted to the incident. The board decided that Mr Kwok would be sacked the next day.

NKF sacks CEO Edmund Kwok over 'personal indiscretion'

  • Mr Edmund Kwok, seen leaving his house at 1.25pm on Nov 17.
  • The interior of his house.
  • The cars inside his house.
  • The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) had no choice but to sack its chief executive officer Edmund Kwok, given the seriousness of his offence against a male colleague, said the organisation's chairman, Koh Poh Tiong (right).
  • Mr Koh Poh Tiong said he was both disappointed and extremely sad because "Edmund (pictured) was a very good CEO".
  • Speaking to the media last night, Mr Koh said NKF's 11-member board was unanimous in deciding that strong and swift action had to be taken because one man's personal indiscretion "cannot and must not affect the whole organisation".
  • Mr Kwok's "personal indiscretion", which The Straits Times understands to be of a sexual nature, occurred on Nov 7.
  • "We have been working day and night. We have been having two hours of sleep," said Mr Koh, who consulted endlessly with the directors, board members and lawyers, after the issue surfaced.
  • The organisation's lawyers advised Mr Koh that what happened was a "reportable offence".
  • The disciplinary hearing, conducted by a three-member panel chaired by board member William Wan (foreground), was held on Sunday afternoon. Dr Wan said Mr Kwok again admitted to the facts of the case.
  • On Monday (Nov 14), Mr Kwok's employment with NKF was formally terminated. A police report was made on Tuesday.
  • In the three years that Mr Kwok has helmed the charitable organisation, he introduced night dialysis to help those who work in the day.
  • He also started building a $12 million mega complex in Jurong that can care for 2,000 patients a week, and found jobs for patients who had become unemployed because of their need for thrice-weekly dialysis.

A police report was made on Tuesday (Nov 15). Responding to media queries, the police confirmed that a report was lodged and investigations are ongoing.

"We acted immediately. We agreed that there will be no cover up," said Mr Koh. "We want to be upfront with all our stakeholders."

NKF is operating "as normal", and the incident had nothing to do with the "stewardship of finances", he added.

Mr Koh said he was disappointed as Mr Kwok was one of the best CEOs he has worked with.

"I feel very disappointed. But most importantly, I feel extremely sad. Edmund was a very good CEO. He was one of the best CEOs I have worked with," he said.

NKF board member William Wan, who was also at the press conference, said that lawyers advised that the matter be reported to the police.

Dr Wan added: "We decided that it was serious enough to terminate him. The organisation is not about one man. We want this organisation not to be affected by one man's misconduct."

A timeline of events that led to the sacking of Mr Kwok was shared by NKF on Wednesday:

Monday, Nov 7: Mr Edmund Kwok allegedly committed "reportable offence" against male colleague

Tuesday, Nov 8: The latter complained to his immediate supervisor

Wednesday, Nov 9: NKF human resource department informed Mr Koh

Friday, Nov 11: NKF board met to discuss matter

Sunday, Nov 13: A disciplinary hearing was convened by a three-man panel headed by board director William Wan. Mr Kwok admitted to the incident

Monday, Nov 14: Mr Kwok was formally terminated

Tuesday, Nov 15: Police report made

Wednesday, Nov 16: NKF issued statement that Mr Kwok has been sacked due to "personal indiscretion"; held press conference

The search for a new CEO has started, and a few candidates have been identified.

In the interim, a three-member executive committee (Exco) appointed by the board, chaired by Mr Koh and supported by board members Bennett Neo and Johnny Heng, will assume all CEO duties and responsibilities until the middle of December.

Mrs Eunice Tay, former CEO of NKF, will then take over the responsibilities of the CEO from the Exco until a new CEO is found.

In a statement earlier in the day, NKF said that its services to its 4,000 patients were not affected.

"Our operations are not affected by this matter and our services to patients and beneficiaries continue as per normal."

Mr Kwok, 58, took up the reins of the NKF in 2013, after serving as chief operating officer under then CEO, Mrs Tay. He was formally vice-president of oncology at Parkway Healthcare, and also held positions at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the Institute of Mental Health.

The NKF was embroiled in a scandal in 2005 when it was revealed that then chief executive T. T. Durai lived a lavish lifestyle using funds raised by the charity. The foundation pulled the plug on large-scale public fund-raising events after that.

But the NKF has since restructured after the scandal, with better corporate governance.

NOTE: The article has been edited for clarity.

This article was first published on Nov 16, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.