SPH Senior Executive Sacked Over Graft (BT)

BackSep 17, 2010

(SINGAPORE) A senior vice-president of Singapore Press Holdings has been fired after he admitted to stealing shopping vouchers and taking kickbacks over a number of years.

Peter Khoo, an SPH employee of 22 years, has made restitution of $196,500 for the misappropriated vouchers and the illegal payments he received, the media company said in a statement yesterday.

The company added that, to the best of its knowledge, none of the donations made to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STPMF) - with which Mr Khoo was also associated - were misappropriated.

These donations are channelled through and managed by the National Council of Social Services (NCSS). Most payments to this fund are made by cheque and acknowledged by receipts. They are disbursed by the NCSS to needy students.

NCSS chief executive Ang Bee Lian said that the council has administrative and audit processes in place, such as engaging external auditors, to ensure that the STPMF is disbursed as intended.

Mr Khoo, a former sports reporter who was senior VP of the editorial projects unit, confessed to the company a few days ago to misappropriating shopping vouchers and receiving kickbacks.

An SPH spokeswoman said: 'Our internal audit periodically reviews internal controls relating to payments and purchases, and has been reviewing expenditure in various ST units recently.'

SPH's external auditors have been alerted.

Following Mr Khoo's admission, SPH made a police report. Investigations are ongoing.

SPH did not give a breakdown of the value of the shopping vouchers - meant as gifts to readers and contest winners as part of The Straits Times' marketing strategy. Nor did it say how much Mr Khoo received in kickbacks or who paid them.

Describing the incident as 'a big setback', Han Fook Kwang, editor of The Straits Times, said: 'While we do not believe the STPMF was involved, I would like to assure our many donors and supporters that it is our top priority to maintain the integrity of The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund. The editors and journalists of The Straits Times want to continue our efforts to help needy children.'

Mr Khoo's post as chairman of the organising committee for STPMF is now filled by Bertha Henson, an associate editor of The Straits Times. She will also head the editorial projects unit, which handles the branding and promotion of the paper.

SPH chief executive Alan Chan said: 'SPH takes a serious view of the matter. We are reviewing our internal processes and will do whatever is necessary to tighten our procedures in all aspects, including that of the pocket money fund.'

An ex-colleague of Mr Khoo described him as a Type-A kind of guy who had a way of building rapport with his newsmakers.

'It was clear that he had a capacity to do big things,' he told BT.

'He was doing very well in marketing and we always knew that whatever you gave Peter to do, he would do it well. He knows how to make something ordinary sound like it's more important than that.'

'The 'why' is the big question, I really can't hazard a guess.'