Sunday 30 December 2012

PAP, WP in war of words over IT firm

Both sides hit back in dispute over contract for opposition town council
By Goh Chin Lian and Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 29 Dec 2012

AN ARGUMENT over the termination of an IT contract for an opposition-run town council continued yesterday, with officials from the People's Action Party (PAP) and Workers' Party (WP) exchanging more accusations over the issue.

The coordinating chairman of PAP-run town councils, Dr Teo Ho Pin, took Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) chairman Sylvia Lim to task, asking why the council had "suppressed" the fact that it had wanted to develop its own software even before the IT firm, Action Information Management (AIM), ended the contract last year.

The town council had told AIM that it wanted to do this on June 10 last year, he said. "Thereafter the contract was terminated with mutual agreement on Sept 9, 2011, after two extensions had been given at AHTC's request. AHTC thanked AIM for the extensions."

Ms Lim, however, said that in June, the town council was "acutely aware" of the possible termination by the PAP-owned firm. AIM yesterday released an exchange of letters between the town council and the firm leading to the termination.

The controversy had arisen earlier this month when a town council management review gave AHTC the lowest banding for arrears management and did not rate its corporate governance, as its auditor's management letter had not been submitted in time.

Ms Lim blamed the poor showing on the need to replicate new computer and financial systems after AIM ended the lease of AHTC's computer and financial systems. She said the first extension to the contract with AIM until Aug 31 last year had to be "fought for".

But AIM's chairman, Mr Chandra Das, refuted this claim on Monday, saying that AHTC had said it wanted to develop its own system after the WP took over the town council last year, following its victory in Aljunied GRC at the general election.

AIM readily gave it the two extensions that it sought - to Aug 31 and then Sept 9 - and AHTC even thanked AIM for the extensions, he said.

In her latest statement yesterday, Ms Lim said WP MPs were "acutely aware of the possible termination of computing and financial systems at short notice by AIM, hanging over AHTC like the proverbial Sword of Damocles".

She said the new management at AHTC requested an additional month, from Aug 1 to 31, mainly to do parallel testing of the front-end of the system, "which AIM agreed to after intercession".

After Aug 31, the former system was no longer operational at AHTC, she said.

Meanwhile, AHTC worked overtime to scale up the WP-run Hougang town council's system.

But Dr Teo last night criticised Ms Lim for not answering the "key question" on the termination.

"Ms Lim should come clean on the facts," he said in his statement. "Why state that AIM wanted to terminate, while suppressing the fact that AHTC had on June 10, 2011, written to say that it wanted to develop its own software? The question has not been answered by her."

Exchange of letters

ACTION Information Management (AIM) yesterday released an exchange of letters with Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), in response to media queries. Here are extracts:

JUNE 10, 2011
From Mr Jeffrey Chua, secretary (interim), to AIM, cc. Ms How Weng Fan, general manager:

"We would like to inform you that Aljunied-Hougang Town Council is in the process of developing a Town Council Management System to support its operations effectively.

We would like to thank AIM for the assistance rendered to us in preparing the migration of database to the new system.

The new system is targeted to go live on 1 August 2011. While the new system goes live, we are planning to have the AIMS-TCMS (Financial Module) running concurrently till 31 August 2011, so as to ascertain the reliability of the new system.

As such, we would like to put up a request to continue to use the AIMS-TCMS till 31 August 2011, for your favourable consideration please."

AUG 29, 2011
From Ms How to AIM:

"We... would like to inform that the auditors is auditing the TC's accounts up to 31 July 2011 would require to review the data in the system. As such, we would like to request the TCMS to be made available till 9September 2011 for review purposes only. "We appreciate your assistance to render the above at no cost."

AUG 31, 2011
From director, AIM, to AHTC chairman c/o Ms How:

"We refer to your letter dated 29 August 2011 to request for the TCMS to be made available till 9September 2011 for audit review purposes.

We are pleased to inform you that the request is granted, subject to Aljunied- Hougang Town Council agreeing to the one-off payment below...

Total Amount Due: $419.98

Separately, please be informed that the provision for parallel run of the TCMS will be terminated wef 1 September 2011."

SEPT 2, 2011
From Ms How to AIM:

"We agree and accept to your one-off charge of $419.98 and would appreciate your kind assistance in facilitating the process."

WP reiterates question on public interest
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 29 Dec 2012

WORKERS' Party chairman Sylvia Lim yesterday accused the PAP town councils and the IT company which bought the councils' computer system of side-stepping a key question in the ongoing saga.

The question: How was public interest served in the deal the two signed?

She was referring to the sale and subsequent lease back to Action Information Management (AIM) of the computer and financial systems co-owned and developed by the PAP town councils.

As she did in an interview last week, Ms Lim, who is also chairman of Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, again sought to draw attention yesterday to a clause in the contract which she said allows AIM to terminate the lease of the software if there is a "material change" in the composition of a town council.

PAP town councils' coordinating chairman Teo Ho Pin and AIM chairman S. Chandra Das had on Monday defended the contract, saying it was in line with financial regulations and the law.

However, Ms Lim yesterday asked for a public interest explanation: "What justification was there for the town councils to relinquish ownership and leave the continuity of town council operations at the mercy of a third party?"

She also took issue with the confirmation on Monday that AIM is "fully owned" by the People's Action Party. "In other words, the PAP-managed town councils saw fit to sell away their ownership of the systems, developed with public funds, to a political party, which presumably could act in its own interests when exercising its rights to terminate the contracts," she said.

She questioned whether there are arrangements at PAP town councils to cater for subsequent changes in composition.

Responding last night, Dr Teo said he would go through Ms Lim's "latest allegations" of conflict of interest and "deal with them openly, in a further statement over the next few days".

No comments:

Post a Comment