Prosecution in the sex-for-favours case against Ng Boon Gay spent a large part of Wednesday pressing the former Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) chief on the point of conflict of interest in his approval for the awarding of two IT contracts.
Throughout, Ng maintained that there was no actual conflict of interest in the first contract as he was not fully aware that Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), which then employed his alleged lover Cecilia Sue, was involved.
However, under heavy grilling by deputy public prosecutor Tan Ken Hwee, Ng admitted on hindsight that he should have not taken part in the procurement process for the second contract as he knew by then that Hitachi and Sue were directly involved in the project, by way of HDS’s technology used in the Storage Resource Management System (SRMS) that was eventually adopted.
On Tuesday, Ng said that because Sue was working for Hitachi, which was a sub-contractor in the two deals, the conflict that could have arisen was a "perceived" one instead of an "active" one that might have existed if Hitachi was one of the main bidders or the main contractor.
When DPP Tan asked if Ng’s relationship with Sue led to an active conflict, owing to HDS’s presence in the initial SAN-virtualisation (SAN-V) project, the latter stuck with his testimony on Tuesday, saying he did not know that the initials “HDS” stood for Hitachi Data Systems.
Further, he said that in signing off approval for the first tender, he was selecting an IT solution instead of a product sold by a specific company.
“I wasn’t looking at this as a system or a product of a company, I was looking at it as a solution, an IT solution,” he said. “At that time I had no idea what HDS stood for, so there wasn’t any specification to say that it was a choice between Hitachi company and in this case EMC company. So when I approved this, I was approving an IT solution and I asked the IT team to go and procure something that is able to meet this IT solution.”
Asked why he did not clarify what HDS stood for, Ng said he did not think understanding the meaning of the acronym would be crucial to his decision making.
“By reading the paper I was able to make a decision without the definition… the technical details to me were not integral to my decision making, and in any case I said that they need to go through a proper procurement process to acquire the solution,” he said.
DPP Tan then asked Ng if Sue had ever mentioned her former employer’s name in its entirety or by its initials in conversations with him. Ng responded that she never did, and never used the term “HDS” to refer to work-related matters.
An email dated 13 May 2011 was also produced, bearing Sue’s email address with the host “hds.com” and the company name was also written out in full beneath Sue’s name in her email signature. Ng still said he “wasn’t familiar” with the initials, however, saying he did not frequently communicate with her via email.
“There could be one or two instances where she sent something to me; I cannot recall because we don’t usually communicate over email,” he said. “She would not use the word HDS when she referred to her work or her office or colleagues.”
Oral sex ‘part and parcel’ of ongoing relationship: Ng
As cross-examination continued in the afternoon, DPP Tan broached the crux of the case — whether Ng’s sexual relationship with Sue stopped him from being up front about potential conflicts of interest in business opportunities she sought with CNB.
At one point, Tan said to Ng point-blank, “If in fact the business opportunities that she was pursuing from time to time had nothing whatsoever to do with the oral sex you obtained from her, why did you not simply tell her you would make sure you would not play any role whatsoever in any procurement process whenever she had an interest?”
Responding to Tan, Ng said Sue had never told him about any projects she was pursuing with CNB, and that he said he “would not interfere with IT matters, and (he) will leave it to (his) IT department”. When Tan brought up the SAN-V conversation that Sue testified she had with Ng, Ng said he did not recall speaking with her about it.
Ng also said that although he was mindful of the conflict situation, he maintained that there was no conflict situation that arose for both the SANS-V and SRMS projects.
“But on hindsight I also said that there could be a perceived conflict of interest and I should have declared and withdrawn myself, so I was aware of the potential conflict but in reality there was no conflict situation that arose,” he said.
Tan later said again to Ng, “You did not make it clear to her (Sue) that you would not play ANY role in the procurement process whenever she had an interest in the project,” to which Ng could only say, “I did not say this specifically to her but I am aware of the potential conflict situation.”
He pressed further, insinuating that Ng did not tell Sue of the potential conflict situation that existed because he “wanted her to believe (he) could somehow play a role in the procurement process… (and) didn’t do this because (he) knew that if (he) made it clear to her that (he) would not be involved, she would be more likely to reject (him) when (he) sought sexual favours”.
Ng rejected this claim, however, insisting that he did not seek sexual favours for that purpose.
“Our sexual relationship was part of our ongoing relationship from 2009 to December 2011,” he said.
The prosecution continues its cross-examination on Thursday.
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