The Independent

SMRT “awash in collective shame” during 30th anniversary of rail operations: CEO Desmond Quek

Instead of celebrating its 30th anniversary of rail operations on Tuesday this week, transport operator SMRT was “awash in collective shame because a few of our staff had let us down,” SMRT CEO Desmond Quek said in an email to employees.

7 Nov 2017 not only marked 30 years since rail operations began in Singapore, it was also the same day that Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan delivered a ministerial statement on the MRT tunnel flooding incident which led to a 20-hour service breakdown on the North-South Line, affecting a quarter of a million commuters, exactly a month before.

Investigations revealed that the flooding – which was the first such incident in the history of Singapore – was “preventable” had the pump system at Bishan been regularly maintained.

However, it was discovered that an SMRT staff team that was supposed to conduct maintenance works on the system every three months falsified paperwork that works were completed when no work was carried out for nearly a whole year.

Khaw told the House on Tuesday: “The SMRT team responsible for maintaining the Bishan storm water sump pit had neglected their duties, falsified records and failed us.”

A day after Khaw ministerial statement – where Khaw flagged that the CEO himself should be responsible for the cultural issues within SMRT – Quek wrote an email to all employees and emphasised the importance of integrity, ownership and responsibility.

He added that without these qualities “things can go horribly wrong. As it did.”

Referring to the staff members involved in the record-falsification saga, Quek said:

“They did not do what they were entrusted to. Their supervisors assumed that nothing would go wrong just because it hadn’t gone wrong before. Possibly they thought no one would notice, or care. Maybe it was always deemed to be someone else’s problem.”
Advising his staff to “take the lessons seriously” Quek added:
“We had worked so hard to come this far, but when some of us fail to do what’s right or do the right thing, we have nothing more to say but apologise to the nation.”
He also encouraged his staff by saying “we have not lost if we learn.” Quek urged his staff to make it their duty to step forward to correct or report any wrongdoing and communicate openly with their peers:
“It is not the mistake that defines a person or an organisation, but how we learn from it, rising to be stronger and better.
“This will be a crucial new beginning for SMRT if we commit ourselves to a culture of discipline and excellence in providing safe, reliable, commuter-focused public transport services that Singaporeans can be proud of.
“Take the responsibility, walk the talk, own the outcome. Let’s press on. We will get there.”

Khaw Boon Wan goes off script during ministerial statement on MRT flooding issue: “If there is poor work culture, the CEO is responsible.”