MDA assistant director in CPIB probe

An assistant director of the Media Development Authority (MDA) is being investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) following complaints against him last month.

The Sunday Times understands he has been accused of trying to borrow money from people applying for grants from the statutory board, which is under the Ministry of Communications and Information.

An MDA spokesman said: "When MDA discovered some irregularities in the conduct of an officer whose duties involved working with grant applicants, we took immediate action to refer the matter to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. We are extending our cooperation to the investigation."

The Sunday Times understands that the officer, who is single and in his 30s, has been suspended from duty with his salary docked.

The MDA, which is responsible for promoting and regulating the media sector, offers grants to help finance projects in broadcast, film, animation, publishing, interactive media, games and music.

One grant applicant told The Sunday Times that he dealt with the officer, who tried to borrow money from him last year.

"When I pitched my project idea to him in June, he was very impressed with my proposal and told me that he would support my application for a grant of $50,000," he said.

"I did not hear from him until October, when he asked to borrow $8,000 from me. He told me he needed the money to help a relative."

The businessman said he refused to lend the officer money for fear it would be regarded as a bribe.

When he did not hear from the MDA, he said, he called the officer and was told his application had been rejected.

In their subsequent exchanges, he said, the officer asked again for a loan.

"From $8,000, he lowered the amount to $5,000, $3,000, $2,000 and eventually $1,000. But I still told him 'No'," he said.

"When I asked to see his superior, he told me that MDA had approved a $50,000 grant for my project and arranged for me to sign the letter of offer."

He said he signed the letter in front of the officer last November, but nothing happened afterwards. When the officer became uncontactable, he went to his superiors last December.

He said he then learnt that his application had never been surfaced.

On Jan 30, he was told that a $150,000 grant had been approved and, within a week, he received the first payment of $40,000.

He said he is helping in the probe, and has given a statement to the CPIB. He added that he understood he was not the only one to complain about the officer.

A CPIB spokesman confirmed the MDA's statement on the probe, but could not reveal more.

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