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Police probe finds 2 JTC officers provided 'inaccurate information' about Kranji land clearing; matter referred to AGC

SINGAPORE — Police investigations into the Kranji woodland cleared by mistake by site developer JTC Corporation in 2020 have found that two JTC officers had given "inaccurate information" to their superiors.

An aerial view of a forest parcel in Kranji shot on Feb 17 in 2021, that JTC's contractor had cleared.

An aerial view of a forest parcel in Kranji shot on Feb 17 in 2021, that JTC's contractor had cleared.

  • The case involves a 25ha site in Kranji, where some plots of land were cleared without NParks’ approval by site developer JTC Corporation in 2020
  • Police investigations into the incident found that two JTC officers had provided "inaccurate information" to their superiors
  • Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said that due to the inaccurate information provided, some of what he had presented in Parliament in February 2021 was also inaccurate
  • JTC will be convening a disciplinary panel to consider the appropriate actions against the officers involved

SINGAPORE — Police investigations into the Kranji woodland cleared by mistake by site developer JTC Corporation in 2020 have found that two JTC officers had given "inaccurate information" to their superiors.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who was Minister for Trade and Industry at the time of the incident, gave this update in Parliament on Thursday (March 10). 

"Investigations have established that when the matter arose last year, two JTC officers, the project manager, and the deputy director who was the project manager’s immediate supervisor, had provided inaccurate information to their superiors in JTC," Mr Chan said. 

The case involves a 25ha site in Kranji, which was set aside for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park. It is part of the 500ha Sungei Kadut Eco-District. 

The tree clearing without NParks’ approval involves over 7.3ha of the plot, out of the 11.9ha that had been cleared. Another 13.1ha of greenery is still undeveloped and all site works had stopped.

The matter came to the fore after a member of public published a set of photographs on Facebook last year showing a before-and-after aerial comparison of the parcel of land. 

Mr Chan said of the latest findings: "The inaccurate information had then been conveyed to Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and subsequently incorporated into the answers I gave to the parliamentary and supplementary questions in February 2021.

"Some of the information I presented to Parliament, based on what they had said, was therefore inaccurate." 

He laid out the statements in February 2021 that had inaccuracies in them: 

  1. Unauthorised work was carried out on 4.5ha of the site "between end December 2020 and Jan 31 2021". Investigations have since found that clearance had commenced without the approval of the National Parks Board (NParks) before December 2020. The probe also suggested that the two JTC officers had given inaccurate information on this to their superiors. 
  2. The unauthorised land clearing “was discovered by JTC’s project manager on Jan 13, 2021 during his site visit". This was inaccurate, because the project manager who was in charge, as well as his deputy director, knew of the clearance before Jan 13. "It appears that they misrepresented the facts and gave inaccurate information to their superiors," Mr Chan said on Thursday. 
  3. The contractor had “not been paid for the over-clearance in January (2021) and December (2020)”. However, investigations have found that some payments had been made for the clearance, including tree-felling in the area during this period.
    "This erroneous information was provided by JTC contract and procurement (construction) division, which processed the payments without realising that the payments included felling of trees in areas that had not been approved for clearance," Mr Chan said on Thursday, adding that there was "no intent by (these) JTC staff to mislead".

He added that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau had been tasked to investigate the matter and "concluded that there had been no corruption".

The case was then referred to the police for further investigations, which concluded early this month.

The police then updated Mr Chan and the relevant Cabinet ministers on their findings earlier this week.

The police have also referred the matter to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), which is now looking into it.

Before updating Parliament, Mr Chan said that he had considered waiting for AGC's decision on whether to bring charges against the officers.

This was because his clarification would be based on the view of the police, which could "well be contested in court, if the matter proceeds to court". 

There is also a need to be fair to the persons who may be charged and "setting out the facts in Parliament should not prejudice their fair trial". 

"After discussing with AGC, I was satisfied that I could update Parliament now on what the police have found," Mr Chan continued.

"But I emphasise to members that the above is the police’s view of the facts and the matter could go to the court." 

He added that follow-up questions such as what prompted the officers to relay inaccurate information should be dealt with by the court. 

"We should be very circumspect about speculating on motives."

Mr Chan also told the House that investigations have also found that two other plots of land in the area, with one measuring 2.8ha, have been cleared without NParks' approval. 

He noted that the whole Kranji site has been earmarked for clearance and development.

"However, regardless of development plans, there are processes to be followed, including getting timely approvals from NParks, and that process was not followed," he said.

NParks has confirmed that if the due process had been followed, it would have given approval subject to the necessary conditions being met, he added.

"However, regardless whether approvals would have been forthcoming, the JTC officers had a duty to give the correct information to their supervisors and MTI. Failure to do so is wrong, and cannot be excused."

JTC SETS UP DISCIPLINARY PANEL

MTI said in a statement on Thursday that it "takes a very stern and serious view of this incident" and does not condone such conduct. 

"The JTC board of directors will convene a disciplinary panel to consider appropriate disciplinary actions against the officers involved, as well as their senior supervisors if they had been in breach of their duties."

In a statement on Thursday, JTC, which is a statutory board under MTI, said that it "apologises unreservedly for the incident". 

It added that it had cooperated fully with the agencies investigating the incident and it expects all its officers to "conduct themselves with professionalism and integrity". 

"The conduct of the two JTC officers fell short of this expectation," the corporation added. 

Related topics

JTC MTI Chan Chun Sing AGC Police Kranji land clearing

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