NParks man 'misled on official interview'

NParks man 'misled on official interview'
Bernard Lim Yong Soon (centre), a National Parks Board (NParks) officer who oversaw the purchase of 26 Brompton bicycles, outside the State Courts on 13 March 2014.

The National Parks Board (NParks) officer accused of lying to auditors was led to believe he was having an informal "chit-chat" with them when in fact it was an official interview, a court heard last friday.

Three Ministry of National Development (MND) officers had not made it clear to Bernard Lim Yong Soon that they would be writing a report on the proceedings of July 18, 2012, for senior management, defence lawyer Lawrence Ang argued on the trial's fourth day.

Lim, 42, is accused of telling the officers that he did not know the director of firm Bikehop before it put in the sole bid to supply 26 Brompton bicycles to his employer for $57,200. It is also alleged that he instigated Bikehop director Lawrence Lim Chun How to perpetuate the lie.

The latter testified on Tuesday that the pair had actually first met in September or October 2011 at a social event, and that Lim tipped him off about the tender which was to take place in January 2012.

Cross-examining MND senior director Felix Loh Chee Wai last friday, Mr Ang said: "My instructions are you made it appear it was a friendly conversation or chit-chat and never relayed that it would be a formal interview."

He also charged that Mr Loh and his colleagues had not advised his client they would be making a record of his words.

Disagreeing, Mr Loh said he explained to Lim that they were conducting an internal audit in the light of allegations about the two men's relationship following a newspaper report, and that this was his chance to set the record straight.

He said: "I told Bernard some notes would be taken and (my colleague) was there typing away."

Mr Loh testified on Thursday that Lim initially claimed he had first met Mr Lawrence Lim on March 16, 2012, but later clarified this to be March 6.

Also taking the stand last friday was then MND assistant director Tan Choon Lin, who had taken notes at Lim's July 18 interview and helped to interview Mr Lawrence Lim the following day.

Mr Tan testified that at the latter interview, the Bikehop director had stuck with Lim's story and claimed they had first met to discuss a delay in the delivery of a batch of the bicycles on March 16, 2012. Mr Lawrence Lim failed to respond to a follow-up e-mail from the MND, which asked him to confirm his position.

But on July 20, 2012, Mr Tan said, Mr Lawrence Lim voluntarily confessed he and Lim had first met before the March 16 meeting.

As this revelation contradicted what Lim had said in his interview, the MND decided not to let Lim see the notes from his July 18 interview.

"We did not share the file notes as we felt that some of the information provided that day may not have been accurate," said Mr Tan, under re-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy.

No corruption charges have been brought against Lim. But if convicted of giving false information to public servants, the NParks assistant director faces up to a year in prison and a fine of $5,000. He has been suspended from his job since July 24, 2012.

The trial resumes on March 25.

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