|"Read my lips"|
On Jun 22, Khaw discussed the Zaobao report on the purchase of 26 units $2,200 foldable bikes with his staff and wanted answers on: (a) why foldable bikes; (b) how the supplier was chosen.
On June 30, NParks submitted their internal findings, and Khaw was satisfied that the decision on foldable bikes could be justified.
[Significantly, here Khaw reveals for the first time, "for thoroughness", he commissioned an MND Internal Audit Team to "dig impartially and more thoroughly into the transaction", and verify "if the procurement was conducted in a fit and proper manner".]
On July 4, Khaw blogged that he had been satisfied with NParks' justification for the purchase, while observing that "NParks might have gotten a better deal if there was greater participation in this quotation", without mention of the audit he commissioned.
Online vitriol started to simmer over the cavalier attitude towards abuse of public funds. Since mainstream media seemed to take the Minister's comments as the final word on the matter, cyber sleuths took the initiative to unearth the hidden details and hit pay dirt.
From July 14, according to Khaw, the audit team took notice of comments circulating online on the friendship between one NParks officer and the owners of the company supplying the bikes. [Significantly, the audit team came across the incriminating inputs from internet sources, not from their own internal thorough investigative efforts.]
On July 20 the MND audit was completed, and the findings determined that while the reason for the purchase was valid, there were "certain discrepancies which suggest a possibility of bias". Note the blame is on the process, not the people involved. The online sentiments boiled over.
On 21 or 22 July, what Khaw termed as "over that weekend", we are told for the first time, the audit findings were discussed with the Permanent Secretary of the MND and it was decided to report the matter to to the CPIB.
On July 23, the report to the CPIB was made, a press statement was issued the following day, and the NParks officer was suspended from duty.
[The first MND statement had a glaring omission of the culprit's name. A second statement confirmed what the Net already knew. Latest disclosure has it that the guy is still on full pay, enjoying his leave entitlement, inspite of being suspended from service.]
"Did I jump the gun? I don't think so," that's what the man said. Well, in the light of facts on hand, we beg to differ. We don't need Yaacob Ibrahim's Media Literacy Council to teach us how to read between the lines, our netizens are doing very well, thank you. It is all too easy to brush the Minister's action/inaction to the side as something of a sympathetic parent trying to make excuses for his child's poor performance in the championship game that led to team's loss, to borrow the excuse for Alan Schwartz bringing down Bear Sterns ("Bear Trap, The Fall of Bear Sterns and the Panic of 2008"", Bamber and Spencer). If Khaw had been open and transparent in his blog of 4 July, the mud would not stick.