Who slaps who now….?
SINGAPORE: Workers Party leader, Low Thia Khiang whose town council is under the spotlight for mismanagement, told Parliament that WP takes the report by the Auditor-General (AGO) seriously and the party has taken steps to remedy the lapses that have been highlighted.
“We are for transparency and accountability. We are not shy to support the motion that is critical of us and we will address the remedy and issues raised by the AGO report,” he said. “We are fully aware that if we overlook certain matters, the PAP government will be the first to take us to account. We are not daunted by it – as this is what a first-world Parliament should be – to keep whoever is in charge on their toes – to do the job properly and be accountable to the people.
Mr Low also refuted claims that the town council’s managing agent FMSS was awarded contracts without tenders. He said open tenders were called in 2012 for managing agent and essential maintenance service unit contracts. The most recent tender was for a managing agent contract in November 2014.
He said the only time tenders were not called for managing agent or essential maintenance contracts was during the transitional period between 2011 and 2012.
This was due to the urgency of having to take over the management of the town after the 2011 General Election while ensuring major services were not disrupted. Mr Low said this is in accordance with the Town Council Act, which allows the waiver of tender requirements under such circumstances.
Mr Low said when the rest of the public tenders were called in 2012, three companies collected the tender documents. But only one submitted a tender. Similarly, in November last year, only one company – which was the largest agent managing PAP town councils – collected the document. It did not submit a tender.
“It would seem that managing agents serving PAP town councils are unwilling to serve as managing agents in non-PAP town councils and that the reason appears to be political rather than professional,” said Mr Low “It looks like the only option for any opposition party to take over the town council would be direct management.”
Mr Low said that was what he had to do when he became the MP for Hougang, which is a single seat constituency, using a financial accounting system developed by the new town council. But this system was inadequate for a much larger town like Aljunied, which is a group representation constituency.
“The AGO has taken a year to check the accounts of AHPETC for the financial year of 2012-2013 and found lapses in several areas. It has not found the town council to be engaged in corrupt practices nor that any money has been lost or misappropriated after thousands of transactions were examined,” Mr Low added.
“We should put this episode in proper perspective. Based on the town council management report, except on S&CC (service and conservancy) arrears, management and corporate governance, AHPETC’s performance in other aspects of town management is comparable to other town councils.”
Mr Low explained that his party supports the motion to help strengthen the legislative framework for town councils.
“As we relook the legislative framework, we need to look at the depoliticisation of the transitioning process and the professionalising of town management, so that incoming town councils can work to achieve good management and not be left stranded,” he said.
Low Thia Khiang who was elected under the banner `We Make The Government Work Harder For You’ and calls for transparency, has been under fire for being secretive and elusive about the running of his own town council.