NParks officer charged with lying to auditors

SINGAPORE - The National Parks Board officer behind last year's Brompton bike procurement fiasco was charged in court on Thursday with lying to auditors investigating the deal.

Bernard Lim Yong Soon, the NParks assistant director who oversaw the purchase, had allegedly denied that he was friends with a director from Bikehop, the supplier of the bicycles.

A second charge alleges that he had persuaded the director to provide the same false information to the auditors, who as a result of his lies did not look further into the relationship between the two men.

This happened sometime between June and July last year, when Lim was being questioned over the controversial purchase of the folding bicycles, which cost NParks $2,200 each.

The 41-year-old, however, was spared from having to face corruption charges on Thursday, as an extensive assessment of the case by the Attorney-General's Chambers did not uncover any elements of corruption.

The probe had also indicated that the tender procedures for the bicycles, made by British brand Brompton, were in order.

Bids had been called for via a website accessible to the public and potential vendors for a period of time that was permissible under guidelines at the time.

There was no requirement for more than one bid or for the purchase to be from an authorised distributor.

The amount NParks paid for the bicycles was also in line with the market price then for the brand of folding bicycles.

The deal for the 26 Brompton bikes, however, drew widespread criticism when news broke in June last year that NParks had spent a total of about $57,200 on them.

An audit team was subsequently appointed by the Ministry of National Development, which oversees NParks, to look into the matter.

The case was later handed over to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau to determine if there were "any criminal wrongdoings in relation to the purchase", said a spokesman from the anti- graft agency on Thursday. Lim has been suspended on half-pay since July last year.

The Straits Times understands that Mr Lawrence Lim Chun How, the Bikehop director indicated in the charges, is not expected to be prosecuted.

The case will be heard again on Sept 27.

If convicted of giving false information to public servants, the NParks officer could be jailed for up to a year, fined up to $5,000, or both.

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