Changi Structure Collapse: Parent Firm Of Contractors Has Ex-Minister Of State On Board

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Who’s Who On The Board Of OKP Holdings, Whose Subsidiary Was Awarded Contract On Changi Structure That Collapsed

Having worked with the likes of the Land Transport Authority (LTA), National Parks Board and Changi Airport Group, OKP Holdings appears to be a reputable and experienced company that’s on the rise.

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Chosen out of 13,000 nominees, it was featured on Forbes Asia’s “Best Under A Billion” list in 2010, an annual ranking of the top 200 firms in the Asia-Pacific region with sales under US$1 billion.

Investors were even urged to purchase OKP’s stocks by watchdogs and stock brokers, who cited an abundance of government contracts and a 58% increase in profits between FY2015 and FY2016 for its positive outlook.

And as a testament to its reputation, OKP’s subsidiary companies were given an A1 grade by the Buildings and Construction Authority, allowing them to bid for public-sector projects of unlimited value.

Under The Surface

But things didn’t look as rosy beneath the surface.

In September 2015, a platform at a construction site dislodged under the Yio Chu Kang flyover bridge, causing four workers to fall over 6m to the ground. One died.

The firm that was behind the project was none other Or Kim Peow Contractors, a subsidiary of OKP.

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Despite the freak accident, Or Kim Peow was awarded a $94.6 million tender to construct a one-way, 2-lane viaduct from the Tampines Expressway to the Pan-Island Expressway and Upper Changi Road by the LTA just two months later. Read our story on how Or Kim Peow Contractors won a project despite a fatality on a previous project.

Last Friday (July 14), the uncompleted viaduct in Changi suddenly collapsed, resulting in 10 injuries and one death.

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Given the company’s questionable safety record, many netizens began suspecting cronyism as the reason behind Or Kim Peow clinching the tender. It was not an entirely baseless suspicion — Singapore was the 4th-ranked country on The Economist’s Crony Capitalism Index in 2016.

After all, why would a government agency award such an important project to a contractor so soon after a disastrous safety lapse at their worksite?

Based on information retrieved from Bloomberg, Reuters and OKP’s own website, we discovered that 6 of OKP’s board members have indeed either worked for the Government or have close ties with them.

Let’s take a look at them.

Mr Or Kim Peow, Group Chairman

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Mr Or first formed Or Kim Peow Contractors as a sole proprietorship in 1966. Operations soon expanded and seven additional subsidiary companies were set up under OKP Holdings, specialising in the “construction of airport runways and taxiways, expressways, flyovers, vehicular bridges, urban and arterial roads, airport infrastructure, and oil and gas-related infrastructure for petrochemical plants and oil storage terminals”.

OKP also handles maintenance works for roads and road-related facilities and has started investing in property development.

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But Mr Or isn’t just a businessman — he has also worked in the grassroots for a long time. The 80-year-old served as vice-president of Gek Poh Community Management Committee and is currently the patron of the Potong Pasir Citizens’ Consultative Committee.

He has also been conferred the Public Service Award medal on 2 occasions, in 2003 and 2014, for his efforts.

Mr Or has 3 sons, all of whom are fellow directors of OKP Holdings.

Mr Or Toh Wat, Group Managing Director

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Like his father, Mr Or Toh Wat was awarded the Public Service Medal twice, in 2005 and 2013.

The 47-year-old holds a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science (Construction Management) from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He oversees OKP’s corporate directions and day-to-day management and business development.

On top of his professional commitments, Mr Oh chairs the Potong Pasir Community Club Management Committee. He was also vice-chairman of Jurong West Secondary School, earning the Service To Education award from the Ministry of Education in 2007.

Mr Or Kiam Meng, Operations Director

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The oldest of Mr Or’s 3 sons, Mr Or Kiam Meng joined OKP in 1985 and manages the company’s tender planning and project financial management processes. According to Bloomberg, the 50-year-old also “personally” conducts on-site inspections to ensure compliance with safety regulations.

Mr Or holds a Certificate in Occupational Safety & Health and a Diploma in Building from Singapore Polytechnic.

He is a member of the Central Community Development Council and vice-chairman of Anchorvale Community Centre Management Committee.

Mr Or Lay Huat Daniel, Executive Director

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A graduate of the University of Western Australia, Perth, with a Bachelor of Commerce, Mr Or Lay Huat is responsible for the business development and corporate communications of OKP.

The 37-year-old has been heavily involved in grassroots activities — he is a member of the Tampines Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and the first vice-chairman of Tampines West Citizen Consultative Committee. He is also the treasurer of the School Advisory Committee of East View Primary School.

For his efforts, Mr Oh Lay Huat received a Public Service Medal in 2014.

Mr John Chen Seow Phun, Lead Independent Director

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Perhaps the person with the strongest links to the government on OKP’s board of directors, Dr John Chen was a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 2006. He completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo, Canada.

The 62-year-old served as the Minister of State for Communications between March 1997 to June 1999, before being appointed the Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology and Minister of State for National Development.

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During his stint as an MP, he was also serving as the managing director of NTUC Healthcare Cooperative from 1992 to 1997 and enjoyed a 6-year stint as an Assistant Secretary-General with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

In 2002, he joined OKP as an independent director before leaving politics four years later.

Besides his commitments with OKP, Dr Chen has been on the boards of at least 10 other companies. His involvement with the public sector didn’t exactly end as well when he left Parliament — Dr Chen serves on the Board of the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Housing & Development Board (HDB), the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), and Singapore Power Ltd.

Mr Tan Boen Eng, Independent Director

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A graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Economies from the University of Malaya, Mr Tan is a veteran in the public sector and a recipient of the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 1975. He was the president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore from 1995 to 2009, a member of the Nanyang Business School Advisory Committee, and is currently a board member of the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals.

He was the president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore from 1995 to 2009, a member of the Nanyang Business School Advisory Committee, and is currently a board member of the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals.

The 83-year-old was also the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras), the director of Singapore Pools and a board member of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

Mr Tan is also a member of the Singapore Sports Council and chairs the Securities Industries Council.

Inconvenient Questions

Just 3 days before the tragic viaduct collapse in Changi, OKP was fined $250,000 for the Yio Chu Kang flyover incident.

Some of the safety lapses it was found guilty of include:

  • Failure to ensure that all personnel involved were properly trained
  • Failure to construct the working platform as per professional engineer’s design
  • Constructing of the working platform despite the lack of supervision
  • Failure to display warning labels providing safety details

OKP was also given 25 demerit points and blacklisted from January to April for its safety lapses.

Mr Chan Yew Kwong, the director of the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, lambasted the company’s attitude towards workplace safety, claiming that they “do not take it seriously”.

“MOM will not hesitate to take punitive actions on companies and individuals who knowingly put workers at risk”, he was quoted as saying by Human Resources Online.

While the ties between OKP’s directors and the government might not be the reason the former won the Changi bid, the close relationship of the two parties have rightfully raised some eyebrows.

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After all, OKP has been fined, blacklisted and slammed by the MOM. Beyond the claims of delays and inconvenience, it makes us wonder why OKP was allowed to continue working on the fatal viaduct.

And when 2 innocent lives are lost, you can be sure Singaporeans are going to start asking some inconvenient questions.

Featured images from Facebooklifespaceconnect.com and National Archives Of Singapore

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