Survivor MRT Island

So PM Lee has wisely decided to convene a Committee of Inquiry into the Dec 2011 MRT “disruptions”, even as SMRT and LTA press on with their own “investigations”.

When I was in the SAF, I was told to fear Boards of Inquiry because they inevitably mean someone’s career will be shattered with a demotion if not a dishonorable discharge, and usually with a long detention sentence to boot.

The COI is not just to investigate the technical causes of the incident. That can easily be established by SMRT or LTA and will be backed by forensic, physical and documentary evidence which will leave no doubt how it happened.

The COI is to establish the cause of the incident, ie who created the physical conditions that led to the incident. Who did not follow procedure, who did not perform the necessary maintenance, was the maintenance regime adequate and in line with manufacturers’ recommendations to begin with, were we running the system beyond its design load and/or design frequency, etc.

More importantly, did the compliance, governance and regulatory oversight work? Did Internal Audit do a proper job? What representations did the senior management rely on to provide assurance that the system could do what it was intended to do? Did LTA the regulator, as the statutory overseer, have correct and updated checklists for inspection, were any findings highlighted to senior management for attention, etc.

In other words, there is enough blame to go around, starting from the SMRT maintenance team through the SMRT management and board, along with SMRT internal and external auditors, all the way to LTA and possibly even some people at the the Ministry as well.

It is precisely because the agencies involved are interested parties themselves that we cannot close this matter with a simple report by LTA alone (even if it includes “relevant” foreign experts), as LTA can hardly be expected to incriminate their own staff in a report. Thus an independent COI has to be set up to name and shame anyone concerned. 

Make no mistake– those found to be negligent will find their careers shattered, even if they are not court-martialed like in a Mindef BOI. If there is enough evidence from the COI to charge anyone with criminal negligence or willful misconduct, that will probably happen. If there is enough evidence that procedures and guidelines were not followed, maintenance regimes were inadequate, etc, the people who should have done this, should have escalated that and should have known better will likely be exiled to distant parts of their organization. They will be replaced by a bunch of more “on” types.

In short, this is Survivor MRT Island.

What remains to be seen is:

1. Who will head the COI– he will be the one driving it and we need to know if we have a hard driver. Also, will the Committee be assisted by a tough-as-nails prosecutor like Walter Woon or Glenn Knight?

2. Whether the proceedings will be published in full, or only the final report. This has implications for transparency. 

3.  The terms of reference of the COI. This will determine whether any fault will be attributed to the politicians who set up the regulatory framework and threw in more passengers than the MRT was designed for.

I’m looking forward to the best Reality TV series of 2012. Will you join me?

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10 Responses to Survivor MRT Island

  1. Lala says:

    Don’t worry. I’m sure COI is very effective. So effective that COI is able to find the “little man” not the “big man” responsible for Mas Selamak incident. No “big man” will be touched even though they are paid millions, only small fly is responsible. Will they find the “little man” responsbile for this MRT breakdown ? Your guess as good as mine.

    • Thanks for comments. I disagree. COI are not held to find small fry responsible. Notwithstanding the above, the punishment may not be what you expect.

      As for Mas Selamat, (1) there was no COI, (2) despite this, Wong Kan Seng lost his million-dollar job. Don’t you think that is sufficient? In other countries the minister concerned would offer his resignation to prevent the party from being punished at the polls. Wong Kan Seng stubbornly refused to do so, and the PM thought pap can get away with it in uniquely Singapore. Well, events proved him wrong.

  2. Lala says:

    errr… sorry but you might want to check this out :

    1) maybe you want to google “coi mas selamat”
    the second one is the COI report unless it is “fabricated”

    2) Did Wong Kan Seng even lost his million dollar job ? Last I heard he is been shifted to another govt job …. can verify how much he is paid ? Isn’t Wong is related to Lee family ? In other words, Wong did not get away… he is just been “cover-up” … though I have to agree that he is less fortunate than PM’s wife who return to her job in TH in full glory again (again and again).

    Wong Kan Seng appointed as special advisor (to PM Lee)
    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporebusinessnews/view/1152638/1/.html

    • You’re right, I forgot about this COI. But it seems you persist in your attitude of disbelief about the fallout from the COI. The pap tried to sweep it under the carpet, but it cost them the election. Wks paid the price by losing his minister post. So what if he is a special adviser? It’s just a face-saving way out for him. It is the same in companies, sometimes a new CEO is appointed, the current one who screwed up gets to be a director of “special projects” which everyone knows means that he gets to do all the dirty work no one else wants.

  3. http://gintai.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/singapore-smrt-trains/
    I did mention that the COI will throw out all kinds of skeletons and cobwebs inside the cupboard. Of course, I know of much but I can’t comment due to the nature of my job. Heads will surely roll. Surely there must be something that led to the system’s “instability” as PM said it. I’m quoting him. We’ll see! It will surely be very exciting and scandalous. Better than the last COI – Nicoll Highway collapse. It is about time to take a hard look at its paradigm viz public transportation at its core.

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