Saturday, 14 February 2015

Pritam Singh: FMSS built Chinese Wall for AHPETC

Managing agent’s staff not privy to tender process: Pritam Singh
By Kelly Ng and Amanda Lee, TODAY, 13 Feb 2015

The couple who own FMSS Solutions and Services (FMSS), the company appointed as Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council’s (AHPETC) managing agent, may hold top appointments in the town council, but they are not involved in its tender decision-making processes, Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Pritam Singh said today (Feb 13), as he addressed the conflict of interest raised in the Auditor-General Office’s (AGO) audit of the beleaguered Workers’ Party-run town council.

The AGO’s audit report had highlighted AHPETC’s failure to properly disclose and assess safeguards to address the potential conflicts before it entered into agreements with FMSS.

Mr Singh, who is also the vice-chair of AHPETC, said: (The) “decision-making to award the tender in such a case would ... be the sole remit of the Tender and Contracts Committee.”

None of the staff at FMSS is privy to the evaluation or the decision-making process, he said. The secretary of the town council, Mr Danny Loh, and the general manager, Ms How Weng Fan, were not involved in this process, which Mr Singh stressed was conducted in “strict adherence” to the Town Council Financial Rules.

Today, Mr Singh and his WP colleagues, Hougang MP Png Eng Huat and Punggol East MP Lee Li Lian, took turns to address some of the lapses flagged by the AGO and tried to assure the House that AHPETC was already setting things right.

For instance, the town council had, in May 2013, paid back in full about S$18.6 million owed to the Housing and Development Board (HDB) for lift upgrading work, Mr Singh said.

He added that those expenses were not recorded in the town council’s books in the earlier years because it had a dispute with the HDB over the amount that should be recognised.

The AHPETC also “duly reversed” several incorrectly stated figures in its books, said Mr Singh, including a S$110,375 figure it believed it should have received from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore — an error that was corrected last May.

After the 2011 General Election, staff of the previous managing agent in Aljunied GRC, then a PAP ward, resigned.

As they were familiar with the handling of financial documents, their resignation meant the town council lost “a lot of institutional knowledge”, Mr Singh explained.

He acknowledged that the handover of records from the previous town council management could have been better managed, but added that proper handover procedures were now in place.

To strengthen internal controls, closed-circuit television cameras have also been set up to monitor the town council’s reception area to detect unauthorised access to its mail, said Ms Lee.

All cheques received are scanned and saved on a central server and those not banked in by the end of each day are placed in a safe, she added.

Mr Png said AHPETC has made “incremental improvements” to its computer system over the years. Contrary to the AGO’s findings, he asserted, AHPETC has a “live and up-to-date” system to track every financial transaction in a resident’s account, including arrears in service and conservancy charges.

Dismissing the insinuation in media reports that AHPETC’s secretary and the general manager, both owners of its managing agent, were pocketing monies paid to the town council, Mr Singh reiterated that the recurring payments were necessary “to keep (the) town running, (or) else rubbish will pile up three-storeys high and lives will be endangered if residents are trapped in the lifts with no rescue effort carried out in the shortest possible time”.








WP must now walk the talk, take action

AHPETC paid Managing Agent estimated S$1.6m a year more than other TCs: MND

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