Desmond Kuek “Volunteered” As SMRT CEO: Khaw Boon Wan

At his ministerial statement to the parliament on 7 Nov, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan opened a can of worms after he revealed that Desmond Kuek had “volunteered” for the position of SMRT CEO.

The Transport Minister was addressing the issue of the Bishan MRT flooding, which led to one of the worst train disruptions this year when he revealed this fact. This got us wondering: How did Mr Kuek even land the SMRT CEO job in the first place?

More questions than answers

The Chief Executive Officer is the company’s top executive that is responsible for a firm’s overall operations and performance. He serves as the main link between the board of directors and the firm’s various parts and is solely responsible for the firm’s success or failure.

Given the heavy amount of responsibility, it is clear that the best candidate must be found for the job.

But how does this entire process take place?

While we can’t ascertain the proper procedure that takes place at SMRT, this was what we managed to find. The Chief Executive Officer is typically appointed by a company’s board of directors. This was true for SBS Transit, when it appointed Mr Alex Goei as SBS Transit DTL CEO on 1 Oct 2017.


The decision to appoint Desmond Kuek was announced by the SMRT Board of Directors, which means they might have made the decision to hire him.


While this procedure seems to be fair and meritocratic, more questions beckon. If Mr Kuek volunteered as a candidate for the job, who did he approach? Was it Mr Khaw, or a member on the SMRT board of directors?

If Mr Kuek spoke to Mr Khaw, under what jurisdiction did Mr Khaw recommend Mr Kuek for the position, given he was Minister for National Development at the time? Also, given that SMRT was a publicly-listed company, a minister probably shouldn’t have the power to influence such a decision.

If it wasn’t Mr Khaw, how did the Transport Minister find out about the conversation between Mr Kuek and the board of directors? After all, Mr Khaw was not the Transport Minister when Mr Kuek was appointed in 2012.

One tiny remark, so many questions.

Featured images from Facebook.