Five things Sylvia Lim said about town councils that are coming back to bite her
By Dennis Theseira
Gerald Giam says that the WP has “done a lot of explaining” in the AHPETC issue but the Government still refuses to accept that their explanations are good enough.
Maybe the Government is too demanding.
Maybe we should weigh the WP’s conduct and replies against its own standards instead – what the WP itself has said TCs should do.
Sylvia Lim outlined the WP standards for TCs on May 2013, when the Workers’ Party raised the AIM issue, arguing against the sale of Town Council Management Software (TCMS) by 14 Town Councils managed by the PAP through the Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM). (See ministerial statement here)
Sylvia Lim said: “As regards the MND’s recommendations for a review of TCs, we find that while they will improve continuity of services during a handover of TC management, their recommendations do not go far enough to prevent wastages of public funds. MND should entrench principles to recognise the public nature of assets being handled by TCs which should be safeguarded for public benefit regardless of politics.”
If she is right, then MND will have to put safeguards in place before disbursing any more grants to AHPETC since all their accounts since 2011 have been qualified. Moreover, they have not been making regular and mandated payments into sinking funds. But WP has been asking for funds to be disbursed to them immediately and without such safeguards.
Sylvia Lim said: “Workers’ Party MPs are committed to being politically accountable to voters for town management under the current regime. Whatever else is done in other countries, the responsibility for town management has been legislated to the MPs under the Town Councils Act. We accept this responsibility and have pledged during elections to manage towns entrusted to us to the best of our ability. We intend to continue keeping this promise.”
If it is true that WP has managed the TC to the best of their ability, their best has resulted in this:
Turning an operating surplus of $3.3 million to a deficit of $700,000 within a year
Not submitting a single set of clean accounts since they took over
Not putting money into the sinking funds – while swearing in a statement to the Courts that it has done so.
If this is their best, God save us from their worst.
Sylvia Lim says: “We are not “asking anybody to wait 24 or 30 months or five years for us to perform.”
But it has been four years since 2011, and they are still blaming handover issues. They have not performed, and rely on a series of four excuses on most occasions.
Maybe they are counting on winning another GRC to fill up the AHPETC hole. It worked once before – in Hougang, which was in deficit until they won Aljunied and co-migled the funds.
Sylvia Lim says: Town Councils provide essential public services to HDB dwellers via public funding. As custodians of public funds, all MPs must act in the best interest of residents regardless of which political party they support. At the same time, TCs unavoidably have some political elements. The manner and quality of town management is one factor in a voter’s choice of MP and MPs wish to do well in town management in order to get re-elected.
The WP acknowledges that TC matters are a factor in voters’ choice, MPs are custodians of public monies. So, thanks but no thanks Hazel Poa, (http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/nsp-chief-mps-primary-job-is-to-make-laws-not-manage-estate) for saying that MPs are for making laws, not for town council matters. If Poa is right, then MPs must be terribly underworked because there’ve been only a handful who actually introduced private members bills. The rest sit there and say “aye” or “nay”– including WP MPs – none of whom had ever introduced any bill.
Sylvia Lim says: I also take strong issue with the misleading release by MND on our Managing Agent, FM Solutions and Services Pte Ltd…MND gave examples of how politics and Town Councils sometimes mixed which included in our case the former General Manager of Hougang Town Council and her husband setting up a company to provide town management services to AHTC. We find this insinuation mysterious as neither she or her husband nor any of the Directors and shareholders of the company are WP members. They were hired based on their experience in property management, professional skills and track record in running Hougang Town Council. What is MND’s reply? The Minister should explain.
If they are so experienced, why did they run the Town Council to the ground? Is the Town Council bankrupt? Sylvia Lim should explain.
Gerald Giam says they explained everything. But residents and the Government keep asking questions. Clearly, the WP explanations are not good enough. Not even by its own standards.