At the ongoing persecution trial of the WP MPs yesterday (Oct 9), the CEO of KPMG Owen Hawkes revealed that he is unaware that the ruling party town councils in Singapore also make “improper payments” under his definition. When questioned by defence lawyers whether if he is aware that the former secretary of Aljunied Town Council is also the managing director of its managing agent CPG Facilities Management, the KPMG CEO said he did not know:
“Defence: The managing director of CPG Mr Jeffrey Chua had shares in CPG’s holding company. Mr Chua was also secretary of Aljunied Town Council. Did you know of Mr Chua’s interests in CPG?
KPMG CEO Owen Hawkes: I do not.”
The KPMG CEO then openly defended the ruling party saying that it is okay for the PAP town councils to have conflict of interest and that it is okay so long they “manage” it:
“KPMG CEO: Without knowledge of what proportion of the shares this equates to, it’s difficult to determine degree of conflict of interest.
Defence: Large or small, it would give him a profit motive.
KPMG CEO Owen Hawkes: Yes. There are conflicts of interest in practically every area of business. The question is not whether there is a conflict of interest. The question is how severe is it and what are the steps taken to manage it.”
KPMG CEO Owen Hawkes then spend the next hour arguing with the defence lawyers why conflict of interests is okay for the ruling party and not for the Workers’ Party:
“Conflict of interest is not binary. There is a spectrum between not having a conflict (on one end) to the final end where you may have conflicts that are so severe that no controls can manage the conflicts of interest involved. If you are a direct shareholder in a company, you are slightly further on the spectrum than the spouse of a shareholder.”
The foreigner CEO then claimed that the opposition party would have saved S$1.2 million if they had continued to engage the government-controlled managing agent, CPG. However, it was revealed that the PAP-controlled company was unwilling to continue the contract with the opposition-held town council – like software company AIM did. AIM had previously stolen the vital town council management software and data needed to ensure a smooth handover to the opposition MPs – a deliberate sabotage to trip the opposition.