Screengrab from website https://www.rechoice.com.sg/, accessed 5 December 2021
Rechoice Engineering Pte Ltd obtained an In-Principle Approval for a Work Permit (IPA) for a worker without the worker’s knowledge. For more information about IPAs, see Glossary. That case, involving a worker named Rana, is written up in a separate article Work permit approval process weaponised for blackmail. This article is about the company itself.
Below, you’ll see from the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM’s) cover letter that the IPA was given the stamp of approval:
When TWC2 was looking into Rana’s case, we naturally did a websearch for Rechoice Engineering. In the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority’s (ACRA’s) portal (www.acra.gov.sg) we could find three companies with names beginning with “Rechoice” and sharing the same business address.
These three (as found on 5 December 2021) are shown below:
Screengrab from the ACRA and Bizfile search site, accessed 5 December 2021
It’s the first one (Rechoice Engineering) that obtained the IPA for Rana without him even being aware of it. The ACRA record (as at 5 December 2021) shows the following shareholders and officers for Rechoice Engineering Pte Ltd:
1. Indian national Ganta Venkata Sai Ram, with a Woodlands address, holding 100,000 shares of $1 each, apparently paid up. Director.
2. Bangladeshi national Dipak Debnath, with a Jurong West address, also holding 100,000 shares of $1 each, apparently paid up. Company Secretary.
At the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Directory (https://www.bca.gov.sg/BCADirectory/), Rechoice Engineering Pte Ltd is listed as registered for CR01 Minor Construction Work and ME11 Mechanical Engineering.
CR01 is explained to mean “Minor building and civil engineering works that are not governed by the Building Control Act such as drainage, minor road works, aprons and minor A & A [additions and alterations]”. It is the lowest of BCA categories and from its description, it suggests that such contractors are not allowed to design or build anything for habitation or with safety implications.
ME11 is explained to mean “The installation, commissioning, maintenance and repair of mechanical plant, machinery and systems. It includes the installation and maintenance of power generation and turbine systems” and Rechoice is graded as L1. We believe this means that it has a maximum tender value of $650,000 for public projects (BCA’s classification system is extremely complex and it’s not easy for us outside the industry to truly understand it, so our undertsanding may not be correct).
Interestingly, Rana’s skill is waterproofing. How this fits into Rechoice Engineering’s kinds of work is unknown.
Rechoice Engineering maintains a website (rechoice.com.sg) that provides a more flattering picture. Imaged below is the opening page of the site (we’ve archived it in case it gets taken down later). It says right there that they are a “low-risk option for turnkey construction projects in U.S. and Europe” and alludes to multi-million dollar projects.
The site’s interior pages are packed with lofty but meaningless sentences such as “Construction is a process which consists of assembling or building infrastructure” with images showing Caucasian men and women.
It boasts having completed over 1,400 projects (or over 500 projects, depending on where you look in the website) and mentions “shopping centers in Shanghai to reduced air pollution in New York City” and, for good measure, “Improving quality of life”.
On the “Projects” page are four photographs of houses and apartments. We scrolled down to the third and fourth and clicked the one on the right side. There’s some mention of “Byron”, but it’s not explained within the website what it signifies.
Our click took us to another page that said
At Serenity Apartments at NYC you can experience affordable living in a convenient location. Our spacious one, two and, three bedroom apartment homes feature major kitchen appliances, open living room, and dining spaces and large closets. Select units also feature private terraces and recent upgrades such as new cabinets, counter tops, appliances, and more.
It’s imaged here:
Interestingly, when we googled again using the search phrase “At Serenity Apartments at NYC”, we found another webpage (https://www.frames-group.com/project/serenity-apartments-2/) with the same text. Look carefully at the top left of our screen grab to see where it came from.
Frame Group has a website at https://www.frames-group.com/. It is listed on https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/frames-group with some details claiming to be a Dutch company. We’re in no position to assess the veracity of the information there; in any case it is tangential to our enquiry about Rechoice Engineering.
Nonetheless, we’re also suspicious because the same picture and words appear again at a website for what looks like a Brazilian company Archimetrum (https://archimetrum.com.br/project/private-and-social-apartments/)
And if you surf around Archimetrum’s website, you will also find mention of the mysterious “Byron”.
Coming back to Rechoice Engineering’s website, its Contacts page shows this:
Scrolling down some more shows some quotes purportedly from senior executives of the company’s satisfied clients. We couldn’t help but notice that all three persons had “Smith” as their surname, and the quotes from Thomas Smith and Monica Smith are identical:
These same words appear in https://archimetrum.com.br/home-architecture/ too, except that here it’s not a quote attributed to anyone:
Rechoice may argue that their site is genuine and it is others who pilfered content from them. If so, the question must be asked: If its content is genuine, why does what is said on its website sound inconsistent with its paid-up capital of only $200,000 and the impression one gets from its BCA classification — that of a minor contractor that mends driveways and fixes street lamps?
No basis for any confidence
It should be obvious that grave suspicions about Rechoice Engineering are warranted. It’s not so much a matter of what looks like a misleading website, but more a matter of what a misleading website implies. It implies that the company is unconcerned about customers coming to it via its website; that its business does not depend on its public communications.
If so, what business is it in, then? What business is it in that is totally divorced from whatever it says in its public communications?
More importantly, how did such a business pass muster with the Ministry of Manpower to obtain a quota for foreign workers? It must have had a quota otherwise MOM would not have approved its IPA application for the worker Rana.
In his attempt to get Rechoice Engineering to withdraw the IPA that he had not wanted, Rana visited Rechoice Engineering’s office. He told TWC2 that it was just a room in a characterless building and the door was locked. No one answered the door.
The counter argument might be that so long as a company meets the conditions laid down for Work Permit quotas, the ministry should be consistent in their application and allow the company to hire foreign workers up to the set quota. Members of the public should use their own judgement to avoid being misled or cheated.
We would argue that the state cannot rely on this argument alone, which one can liken to a simplistic Caveat Emptor principle. The state also has a protective responsibility, and one aspect of this is to ensure that licences and permissions given out by the state are not abused to cause harm to persons who rely on the licensing as a basis for trust. That’s the justification for regulating and licensing property agents, pharmacists or taxi companies.
We can expect that if property agents, pharmacists or taxi operators behave in dishonest ways, their licences will be reviewed. Likewise, we hope MOM is quick to look into employers that do not pass the smell test.
In this story, we’ve only detailed the ways in which Rechoice Engineering’s website looks suspicious; we haven’t detailed any wrongdoing, and perhaps the argument may be that we should give them the benefit of doubt.
However, at the top of this article, we hinted at what the allegation was that kicked off our deeper look at Rechoice Engineering — applying for an IPA for Rana without his consent. It is discussed in greater detail in Work permit approval process weaponised for blackmail.