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SMRT asks staff to admit to lapses during amnesty period ahead of audit

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Rail operator gives staff a chance to admit to work lapses during 'amnesty' period or face the music

SMRT has asked rail staff to own up if they have been cutting corners in their work and assured them that they will not be penalised.

But only if they admit to any breaches during the "amnesty" period, which ends today.

After today, SMRT's internal audit division will conduct a wide-scale inspection and audit, and lapses discovered will be penalised. The move is aimed at ensuring commuter safety and quickly plugging gaps in maintenance operations - one of which resulted in the flooding of an MRT tunnel last month.

The Straits Times understands the rail operator sent an e-mail to employees a few days ago, offering them a chance to own up on work that they had not done, or if they had not adhered to company procedures.

When contacted, SMRT declined to provide more details.

It was revealed on Tuesday that some employees responsible for maintaining the pumps of a storm water pit had signed off on work that was not done.

It is suspected that the falsification of the quarterly maintenance records went as far back as December last year.

The manager and staff responsible have been suspended and are assisting in investigations. SMRT also replaced its vice-president of maintenance a week after the flooding, which disrupted train services for about 20 hours over two days, affecting 250,000 commuters.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng was not in favour of the "amnesty" approach. He felt it would be more effective to conduct checks and identify problem areas and staff.

But an experienced auditor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "The objective is to get to the nub of the problems as fast as you can. If you do an extensive audit, it takes time.

"In the meantime, for example, if the train breaks down because of a lack of maintenance, even though it was supposed to have been serviced regularly, it creates a bigger issue. Once this is tackled, then we can deal with accountability."

Mr Yee Chia Hsing, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said: "I can understand that some people may think that giving an amnesty is letting the staff off too easily.

"However, if we want to work towards an outcome of upping the standard of maintenance, and given it is easier for people to own up and report rather than for the audit inspection team to discover the non-compliance, I can understand their rationale for doing this."