What went wrong, AHPETC?

Well you might have read by now that the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) released its report on the audit findings of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council’s (AHPETC) accounts for the Financial Year 2012-13.

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So here I am pointing out the facts to you, as AHPETC Chairman Sylvia Lim has told the media.

It’s rather unfortunate that many flags were raised in the report findings, especially since they have a rather large town council to run.

But the facts are plain to see. Five major lapses in governance and compliance which were highlighted by the Auditor-General.

Perhaps a better move would have been to divide the town council into bite-sized chunks to run rather than going whole-hog.

Accuracy and Reliability

According to the AGO, the AHPETC did not have a system to monitor the scale of its Conservancy and Service (C&S) arrears accurately. No wonder then that the arrears data and the AHPETC’s Finance and Investment Committee have been deemed “unreliable” by the AGO.

Perhaps the AHPETC should have hired professionals to run their town council, after all spending a bit of money on the town council which is for the residents, is not a bad thing; at least it ensures reliability and accuracy.

Conflict of interests

Talking about spending money, another lapse which the AGO pointed out was the lapse in internal controls and procurement, which the AGO said “exposes the town council to the risk of loss of money and valuables, as well as the possibility of commitment to expenditure without needed approval.”

AHPETC1

Interestingly, the town council’s Secretary was the owner of one of two companies engaged to carry out managing agent services and essential maintenance and lift rescue jobs, while the Secretary together with the General Manager and Deputy General Manager of the AHPETC were directors and shareholders of the second company, FM Solutions and Services. Isn’t it strange and unacceptable for key officers of AHPETC to have ownership interests in the service providers and at the same time approving payments to these companies?

In my opinion, private businesses run by party members or town council officers should not be bidding for service contracts by the town council. That way, you ensure that there is no conflict of interests.

Actually, this case is quite skewed in the favour of the AHPETC. No criminal action has been taken against the town council. If the case had to do with a public listed company, legal action would have been taken and things will turn ugly.

Over the years you would have seen many other organisations, even Government ones having lapses in their administration of schemes and programmes.  Among these are the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board, Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency which had administrative lapses cited by the AGO in 2014.

These organisations made good by responding that they would review and improve its processes to not make the same mistake again.

So the ball is in the AHPETC’s court. What are they going to respond and do to make good for the lapses that have been raised?

Yes, I would agree with what Ms Sylvia Lim said to urge members of the public to “look beyond the headlines and the summaries and to look at some of the details of the report” so that they have a better understanding of the issues and facts. So these are the facts:

AHPETC

 

 

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Arthur Lee

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