Right culture starts from top: Khaw Boon Wan

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan says a positive corporate culture starts from the top, putting paid to SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek's refrain about some workers in his company.

SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming speaking at the Oct 16 media briefing on the MRT tunnel flooding incident. With him were SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek (left) and SMRT Trains CEO Lee Ling Wee.

Citing Mr Kuek’s remarks at a media conference on “deep-seated cultural issues within SMRT, Mr Khaw said yesterday: “Let me stress that growing the right culture is the responsibility of everyone – from the top leadership down to the workers.”

Interspersing his words with frequent glances up at the Parliament gallery, where Mr Kuek and other top SMRT and Land Transport Authority honchos were seated, he added: “I will look to the SMRT management to set the right tone of professionalism and excellence, to complement the audit systems that are being put in place. This is the Singapore way.”

He went on: “When we speak of ‘culture’, we mean the culture of the whole organisation – the values and practices of management, as much as the values and practices of the workers.”

More than once, Mr Khaw said he was confident new SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming will transform the group’s culture and turn it around. “He has turned around organisations before… but he needs some time,” Mr Khaw said, as the camera panned to Mr Seah nodding in agreement.

Mr Seah, who joined SMRT in July, is chief executive of Pavilion Energy, the Temasek Holdings-backed parent of Pavilion Gas. He replaced Mr Koh Yong Guan, who was SMRT chairman from 2009.

Mr Khaw also revealed that the SMRT board will “review the remuneration of its senior management, from the CEO through the relevant chain of command”.

SMRT had cut Mr Kuek’s salary in its 2016 financial year, its last annual report showed. The transport operator was subsequently privatised and delisted.

Mr Kuek, 53, had received a total remuneration of $1.87 million for the 2016 financial year – down from $2.31 million the year before.

Related story: SMRT to discipline six on maintenance team
Related story: SMRT chief urges staff to learn from flooding incident