Wednesday 19 August 2015

Gerald Giam on AHPETC bullshit: 'We say only the good stuff'

Pre-GE forum offers glimpse of likely issues at poll hustings
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 19 Aug 2015

A forum which featured all 10 political parties that are set to contest the coming election provided a preview of the issues that will be in play and where the clash of ideas and approaches are likely to take place.

That included an indication of the defence that the Workers' Party (WP) will mount against longstanding criticism from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) over the management of its town council.

Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam, representing the WP at the traditional pre-general election forum organised by the National University of Singapore Society, said his party had not short-changed residents when taking care of their neighbourhoods.

"They will tell you that in terms of estate maintenance, cleanliness - the issues that really matter to them - we have done comparably well to any other town council."

The PAP continually harped on lapses in governance by the WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) even though the opposition party already explained its position in Parliament and in subsequent statements, he said.

The PAP was doing this because it wanted to "insert into people's minds that we're not capable of running a town council" - and he expects the ruling party to revisit the issue again during the hustings.

But the PAP's representative, Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information Sim Ann, countered that the WP had only itself to blame for the repeated attention that the Government is giving to AHPETC because the WP has not fully answered questions about the town council's financial well-being.

"I wish that more answers had been forthcoming from AHPETC. Then I think we would have wasted much less time on the issue and I think the population would be much the wiser," she said at the forum at the Kent Ridge Guild House attended by 450 members .

The exchange got increasingly heated, with Mr Giam suggesting that Ms Sim came to the dialogue prepared to stir up the issue again.

This earned a quick rejoinder from her that Mr Giam did her "an injustice" as it was forum moderator Viswa Sadasivan who asked her to respond on town councils.

That exchange was but one instance in which opposition party representatives took turns to criticise the PAP over its policies and stance on issues. By the end of the three-hour session, it was apparent that many of the issues that dominated the 2011 General Election would resurface at the next one.

Immigration and the notion of a 6.9 million population target, for instance, was raised by several opposition party representatives to applause from the audience.

One audience member asked if the Government would consider forcing companies to hire Singaporeans first.

While the presence of 10 representatives meant few chances for them to delve into policy, each gave a preview of their party's platform at the start.

One common thread among opposition parties was a call for more government accountability on issues, but there was significant variety among them.

The Singaporeans First party focused on immigration, the Reform Party asked questions about financial management, and the Singapore Democratic Party pushed for a more liberal democracy.

Others like the National Solidarity Party and Democratic Progressive Party said they wanted to present new ideas to the Government.

If last night's forum was any indication, the WP will also continue with the "Towards A First World Parliament" slogan it used in 2011.

Mr Giam said the slogan remained relevant and urged voters to elect more opposition MPs in order to achieve that goal.

As for the PAP, Ms Sim said the election centres on the need for strong leadership.

"This GE, just like any other GE, is about the future. It's about who forms the government and who will take Singapore to the next stage," she said.

WP answers 'haven't shed light on AHPETC situation'
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2015

In a blistering attack, Mr Hri Kumar Nair, a PAP MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, yesterday said the so-called answers given by the Workers' Party (WP) so far about lapses at its town council have not shed any light about the situation there.

And Singaporeans are left none the wiser about whether public funds have been lost or misappropriated, he added.

He told the WP that it needs to order a forensic investigation into the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) accounts to set things right.

Mr Nair's Facebook post followed comments that the WP's Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam made at a forum on Tuesday.

Mr Giam had said it is only the People's Action Party that is not satisfied with his party's answers.

Mr Nair retorted that Mr Giam "does not give Singaporeans enough credit".

He listed seven "basic questions" which he said the WP had not answered. These range from why the party has not carried out an independent investigation into issues flagged by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) to why it has not done anything to determine if public funds have been lost or misappropriated. The AGO uncovered lapses in governance and compliance with the law at AHPETC.

These include its failure to disclose related-party transactions involving its managing agent companies, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) as well as FM Solutions and Integrated Services (FMSI), which were owned by some of AHPETC's key officers.

Mr Nair noted that AHPETC had not asked both companies to open their books for scrutiny.

In comparison, he said, when the AGO found flaws in the way the National Library Board (NLB) procured electronic resources, the NLB responded by tightening its processes and referring the matter to the police.

Mr Nair added that MPs who manage millions in public monies owe a duty to the people to ensure that town councils comply with the law.

He said: "MPs are all accountable and must act with honesty and integrity. If for any reason a town council goes wrong, MPs have the responsibility to be transparent and take effective action to put things right, regardless of how embarrassing it may be to the MPs personally or to their party.

"The WP has lawyers, and it knows it can be done. But the WP does not want to do it. Why not? That is one more question it has not answered."

When contacted yesterday, Mr Giam referred The Straits Times to the open letter his party sent to residents in June explaining its efforts to address the lapses at AHPETC.

In it, AHPETC chairman and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim denied that the town council had awarded managing agent contracts to "friends", referring to FMSS and FMSI. She also said the town council had not overpaid the companies.

She said "AHPETC has made some improvements and has also acted promptly to hire external accountants to assist to clean up its accounts and to further strengthen its processes and controls. The work is making progress and certain financial issues will take time to resolve".

Can we have more answers please?
Posted by FiveStarsAndAMoon on Sunday, August 23, 2015


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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